Sunday, July 22, 2018

EastMinCom: No terrorists in city after Maute bomber slay

From the Mindanao Times (Jul 19): EastMinCom: No terrorists in city after Maute bomber slay

THE EASTERN Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) yesterday said they received no intelligence report of the presence of terrorists in Davao Region following the death of a Maute bomber and the arrest of six others in General Santos last Monday.

Speaking in yesterday’s AFP-PNP press briefing held at Pinnacle hotel, Maj. Ezra Balagtey, spokesperson of EastMinCom, said following the anti-terror operations, they immediately tapped their intelligence network as a preemptive measure.

“In as far as threat is concerned, we don’t have hard information that we receive although the threat is always there,” Balagtey said. “Part of our area of responsibility is General Santos.”

He also said that since the start of the Martial Law in Mindanao, their priority is to prevent the spillover of the terror attack in Marawi City. This is the reason why their strengthened their intelligence information and exchange with Western Mindanao Command.

“In Davao region we haven’t received any information (of the presence) of the terrorist group but we are continually conducting our intelligence exchange also with the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency and Philippine National Police,” he added.

“There are already reports that the recruitment of the terrorist group has already been conducted in some areas,” he said.

 Meanwhile, he said they already prepared a security plan, in coordination with the 1003RD Infantry Brigade and Joint Task Force Haribon, for the Kadayawan festival next month.

“We are looking into the security plan that will be conducted by the Joint Task Force Haribon and 10th Infantry division if there will be additional troops to augment the security of Kadayawan,” Balagtey said.

 An alleged bomber of the Maute terrorist group was killed in an inter-agency law enforcement operation early Monday morning in Barangay Fatima, General Santos City.

The suspect was identified as Najib Calimba Pundog alias Najib Hussein, a bomb expert of the terrorist group.

Col. Adonis Bajao, Joint Task Force (JTF) GenSan commander, said the inter-agency group, composed of personnel from JTF GenSan, Regional Mobile Force (RMF), and Philippine National Police Office 12, served a warrant of arrest issued by the Regional Trial Court Branch 11 in Malabang, Lanao del Sur for serious detention and kidnapping against the suspect.

However, Najib resisted and shot one of the law enforcers, prompting the arresting team to shoot back.

 Recovered from his possession were a Glock pistol and a hand grenade.

Acting on information from the community, a follow-up operation was also executed by the group at about 7 a.m. that day which led to the arrest of fugitive Nafisa Pundog, the wife of Abu Dar, a senior Maute leader who recruited fighters in the Battle of Marawi, at her safe house in Purok Maunlad, Brgy. Apopong, General Santos City.

Anti-Terror Ops: Military and police forces, and law enforcement agencies collaborate to fight terrorism

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jul 21): Anti-Terror Ops: Military and police forces, and law enforcement agencies collaborate to fight terrorism

ANTI-TERROR operations continue in southern Philippines as security forces hunt down members of militant groups allied with the Islamic State.

The military and other law enforcement agencies have been working closely in the anti-terror campaign in the restive, but mineral-rich region where militants are fighting to put up a caliphate in Mindanao and drive away Christian settlers.

Several armed groups have been waging “jihad” in the South and continue recruiting young members who had been brainwashed by false interpretation of the holy Koran similar to teachings espoused by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and even Taliban in Afghanistan.

Just recently, security forces in General Santos city shot dead a pro-ISIS bomber and captured 7 people, including the wife of the leader of local ISIS group in southern Philippines following a dangerous mission that left one police commando wounded during a firefight.

Major Ezra Balagtey, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, said the slain bomber, Najib Pundog, was a member of the Maute group that laid siege in Marawi City last year. “Najib Calimba Pundog alias Najib Hussein, an IED expert and bomber of the Maute group was killed during an inter-agency law enforcement operations in General Santos city,” he said.

The operations were launched in the village of Fatima where Pundog was hiding, according to Balagtey, who said the bomber opened fire on security forces sent to arrest him, sparking a firefight that wounded the commando. “Recovered in his possession are one Glock automatic pistol and a hand grenade,” Balagtey said.

Security forces also swooped down on another hideout in Apopong village also in General Santos and captured Nasifa Pundog, one of several wives of Humam Abdulmajid, also known as Abu Dar and the new emir of ISIS in the Philippines who was also involved in the siege of Marawi that left hundreds of people dead and wounded in fighting that lasted for 5 months. Pundog is facing a string of criminal charges, including illegal possession of incendiary device.

Five other people – Nafah Pundug Macaraya, 35; Famida Amer Macasindel, 29; Naica Amina Calimba Pundug, 22; Nashibah Calimba Pundug, 37; Saramina Calimba Pundug, 60, – were also arrested after they prevented security forces from arresting the woman.

Troops also arrested the younger brother of the slain bomber, Mohamad Naif Pundog, 23, after a fragmentation grenade was found in his possession. It was unclear whether the man tried to detonate the grenade during the security operations.

Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command, praised the successful operations and appealed to the public to support the government’s anti-terror campaign in order to prevent any possible atrocities by terrorists in the restive region.

“This joint efforts of the local communities and our law enforcers manifest that terrorism will not prosper if we put our acts together. We call on the continuous participation of the communities and other government organizations and law enforcement agencies in our effort to prevent violent extremism in our midst,” he said.

Addressing Islamist Militancy after the Battle for Marawi

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jul 21): Addressing Islamist Militancy after the Battle for Marawi

THE PHILIPPINE CITY of Marawi, on Mindanao island, remains in ruins more than a year after a five-month jihadist takeover. To avoid fuelling militancy, Manila must involve locals in reconstruction, implement a 2014 deal with Mindanao separatists and go beyond efforts to counter jihadist ideology.

In May 2017, Muslim militants acting in the name of the Islamic State (ISIS) seized Marawi, a lakeside economic hub in the Lanao del Sur province of Mindanao, the second-largest island in the Philippines. It took the Filipino military five months to regain control of the city.

Now, more than a year after the siege began, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration in Manila appears overwhelmed by the task of reconstructing the destroyed city. Manila faces significant challenge in restoring its writ, enabling the 200,000 civilians displaced by the fighting to return home and, more broadly, preventing a militant resurgence in Mindanao.

Thus far, the government has tended to view jihadism in the archipelago as mostly ideologically motivated. Its policies, as a result, focus mostly on promoting counter-narratives, often through hand-picked local religious leaders who typically lack local legitimacy.

In reality, jihadism’s roots lie in decades of separatist insurgency and dysfunctional local politics. Carrying out the provisions of a 2014 peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest armed group on Mindanao, would better suck the oxygen from jihadists than attempts to counter their ideology.

Manila also should involve local communities in reconstruction, so those efforts do not fuel anger at the state. Muslim Mindanao Muslims are a minority in the Philippines, making up about 11 per cent of the population. On Mindanao, however, that proportion rises to roughly 23 per cent.

In 1989 the government formed the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with Lanao del Sur and three other provinces. This west-central part of the island has a rich Islamic heritage, embodied by Marawi with its concentration of historic mosques.

When, in 1980, the city council designated Marawi an “Islamic city”, many of the city’s inhabitants saw that step as a welcome acknowledgement of this history. Now the city centre, including the Marawi Grand Mosque, has been reduced to rubble and is littered with unexploded ordnance, preventing the displaced from returning.

Manila’s vision of reconstruction is a showcase of promenades and resorts built by a China-led consortium in the ruined commercial district. The struggle to retake Marawi was the largest urban engagement for the Philippines armed forces since the Battle of Manila during World War II. The Maute Group, a jihadist group hailing from Lanao del Sur seized the city in an operation ISIS propagandists likened to the capture of Mosul in Iraq. It remains unclear how much operational guidance the Maute Group received from the ISIS core in Iraq and Syria during the battle.

Open source evidence showed the Maute leaders, brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute, calling the shots during the final stages of attack planning. This group of largely college-aged and, in some cases, particularly among the leadership, college-going militants held the city for months, thanks to a combination of local knowledge and planning capacity, funds generated locally and abroad, the arrival of dozens of foreign fighters and propaganda support from ISIS-linked media.

The militant’s infiltration of the city before they seized it suggested the presence of sympathisers among Marawi’s inhabitants. Disenfranchised youth frustrated with the protracted Mindanao peace process and local clans who take an adversarial stance toward Manila-imposed policies provided a permissive environment for the Maute Group.

The protracted battle to oust the group highlighted limitations within the Philippines security forces in information gathering and urban warfare. These weaknesses, in turn, result at least partly from Manila’s struggle to adapt to the growing threat posed by jihadist cells adept at decentralised operations, after years fighting more hierarchical Mindanao secessionist groups whose structure emulates conventional military forces.

Jihadism in Mindanao should be understood against the backdrop of the 40-year Moro separatist conflict that has killed more than 120,000 people and displaced millions, and faltering efforts to find a political solution to that conflict. In 2014, the Philippine government and the MILF signed a peace deal – the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro – which pledged increased political autonomy, more equitable resource sharing and the demobilisation of former secessionists.

Since then, however, the agreement’s implementation has faltered due to factionalism among militant groups, objections from some legislators to the autonomy it envisaged for Muslim Mindanao and breaches of a ceasefire between the Philippines and the MILF.

Prior to the Marawi siege, MILF commanders had warned that the longer the peace process remained mired in the legislature, the more receptive their junior cadres could grow to ISIS propaganda. Indeed, the Maute Group appears to have recruited former MILF fighters and has ties to armed factions previously aligned with the MILF.

Implementing the Bangsamoro deal is thus essential to efforts to curtail the influence and spread of jihadism, as well as the MILF’s splintering or return to combat. On 31 May, after an almost three-year delay, the Philippine legislature approved the bill that would enact a future Bangsamoro Basic Law, the most important component of the 2014 deal.

Once signed into law by President Duterte, the bill would allow for the creation of a “new, political entity” – called Bangsamoro – in Mindanao to replace the existing Autonomous Region. This would address the MILF’s demands for self-rule and for Bangsamoro to benefit from a share of the wealth from Mindanao’s natural resources.

Government surveys estimate natural gas reserves in the Liguasan Marsh at 68 billion cubic feet, leading some Maguindanao politicians to refer to the province as the “next Dubai”. President Duterte is expected to sign the bill this month, which should check the growing impatience of younger MILF commanders. But while autonomy for Bangsamoro will be a good start, Manila also needs to rethink some of its core assumptions about what drives many Muslim Filipinos to militancy.

Domestic Roots of Mindanao Militancy
In the case of the Marawi takeover some observers solely attribute the Maute Group’s ability to occupy the city and then withstand the siege through foreign cash and fighters. Certainly foreign funds and the apparent reinforcement of the group’s ranks with seasoned fighters from abroad seem to have helped. But the full story is more complex.

Mindanao’s jihadist milieu has its origins in local clan and electoral politics, as well as the grey economies that sustain militants such as the Maute Group. Prior to pledging allegiance to ISIS, the Maute Group was in effect a private militia for the eponymous clan headed by matriarch Farhana Maute, intimidating other clans that contested in local elections in the province.

It used coercion to mobilise votes and extort contractors involved in public works projects. This provided the group with experience in purveying violence that would prove useful during the Marawi siege. In 2016, after candidates backed by Farhana suffered losses, the Maute Group appeared to adopt ISIS-related imagery, less because of any particular affinity for ISIS’s ideology than to burnish its fading image as a tough enforcer.

It also began to attract former fighters from MILF, especially younger members who felt that the peace process with Manila was taking too long. In the past, other militants in Mindanao have similarly deployed jihadist rhetoric to promote a more ferocious image. Best known is the Abu Sayyaf Group, formed in the early 1990s by Abdurajak Janjalani, a Filipino veteran of the anti-Soviet mujahidin in Afghanistan. After Janjalani’s death in a 2006 police raid, the Abu Sayyaf Group became infamous for kidnapping-for-ransom activities under the guise of jihad. Kidnapping for ransom is a lucrative supplement to communities that would otherwise derive their incomes from fishing and subsistence farming.

The lack of law enforcement and the challenging agricultural environment in western Mindanao incentivise kidnapping. Abu Sayyaf leaders have long been connected to jihadist movements elsewhere. In its early years, the group’s leaders enjoyed al-Qaeda links and the global movement provided seed funding for attacks in the Philippines. Since mid-2014, Abu Sayyaf factions, particularly in the western Mindanao province of Sulu, have used ISIS-associated iconography such as black flags, apparently in part to extract larger ransoms from foreign governments.

Factors that motivate people to join Mindanao’s jihadist groups are complex. While ideology undoubtedly plays some role, motives among those in outfits like the Maute Group tend to be more material. As described, some local militias adopt the ISIS brand to intimidate rivals or project greater ferocity. Among the rank and file, involvement in jihadist militancy is often the result of a vocational decision within a family or a village, rather than an individual’s epiphany.

Not a single Filipino Muslim has attempted a suicide bombing in nearly five decades of insurgency in Mindanao. The rewards in the afterlife promised by jihadist ideology have yet to trump the real-world needs of militants and their kin. Nor have local jihadist groups produced ideological texts that indigenise the global jihadist movement. Compare this to the prolific writings of other non-state armed groups in the Philippines, such as the Communist Party of the Philippines and its New People’s Army, which outline what form locally-rooted communism might take. Or compare it to jihadists in Indonesia, who have long produced original vernacular material in various formats including books, pamphlets and DVDs.

No such material exists in the Philippines. Thus far, Manila has not invested seriously in understanding the origins of jihadism in Mindanao. Since the election of President Duterte, the Filipino policy response has veered from military operations to policies framed through the lens of “countering violent extremism” (CVE) – mostly involving efforts to counter jihadist propaganda and indoctrination – despite the absence of a national policy that defines “violent extremism”.

CVE framing tends to reduce the complex interaction of political and socio-economic factors that underpin Mindanao’s ongoing conflict to the single cause of jihadist ideology. The dominance of CVE discourse is likely to render Manila’s policy in Mindanao ineffective.

The government’s effort to promote Muslim clerics it views as “moderate”, for example, may further alienate a populace that derides them as mere mouthpieces. Strategic communications campaigns to counter extremist content on social media do not resolve the real-world issues such as dysfunctional politics and economic deprivation that jihadists tap to win recruits.

Aftermath In the shattered city of Marawi, civil society and neighbourhood collectives eye Manila’s reconstruction plans warily. Many fear that reconstruction, which will most likely be carried out by a Chinese-led consortium, may mean permanent exile for the displaced.

The Duterte administration has declared it wants to build a “new Marawi”, which includes plans for transforming the battle area into an “economic zone”, though precisely what this would entail remains unclear. Its plans appear to ignore the murkiness of land ownership in the city, where competing deeds and informal property claims have sparked periodic clan and family disputes for decades. Many residents of the area that saw the worst destruction, known as the “most affected area”, do not have deeds to their houses, many of which now lie in ruins.

They may lose the right to rebuild their homes, while potentially receiving no compensation from the government. Manila cannot solve the problem by paving it over. Mishandling Marawi’s reconstruction, notably by carrying it out in a manner than angers inhabitants, also risks amplifying the idea, pushed by the Maute Group and its allies, that Islam is under attack in Mindanao.

A botched reconstruction could also impugn the autonomy-centric political stance of mainstream groups such as the MILF, potentially driving more of its younger members toward jihadism. Locals take considerable pride in the city’s heritage as the centre of Islamic education in Mindanao. Should the government disregard that sentiment – and proceed with plans to gentrify the city centre in order to lure tourists – it could further alienate inhabitants of the city from the state.

It also could entrench the sentiment of some influential clans that deployment of state security forces in the city was tantamount to foreign occupation. This, in turn, would play into the hands of Maute Group remnants or other violent rejectionist movements that may emerge. Instead, Manila should enhance measures to involve Marawi’s inhabitants in its reconstruction.

Substantial local input would signal a deeper commitment by the central government to Mindanao’s autonomy, even beyond the provisions of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which itself should be enacted without delay. The Bangon Marawi (Rise Marawi) inter-agency task force supervising reconstruction should become an active partner of affected residents, rather than simply promoting the Chinese-backed plan. Meanwhile, the Duterte administration should avoid pronouncements that cast Mindanao militants as “desperate” individuals driven to crime or hardcore terrorists who should be “eaten”.

The Filipino security forces should instead refocus on intelligence analysis and build on their experience of peacebuilding, gained while the MILF was still in negotiations with the Philippine government. Nor should those officials who spearhead CVE policies pick which community or religious leaders will represent Marawi or Mindanao. Rather, they should focus on addressing the grievances that jihadist movements exploit, thus empowering individuals and communities that promote peace and support a political solution to the Mindanao conflict.

The jihadist takeover of Marawi, with the Maute Group able to leverage frustration at the gaps in governance and stalled peace process, was a jarring reminder to Manila of the depth of Muslim grievances in Mindanao. What started as militants’ tactical use of ISIS iconography ended in a protracted siege that brought into question the Philippines’ ability to attain peace in Mindanao.

The government should take a holistic view of the drivers of conflict, being careful not to lose sight of those that predate the emergence of jihadist cells, notably the demands of many Muslims in Mindanao for a greater say in running their own affairs and reaping the benefits of the region’s natural resources.

The Maute Group, for now, appears weakened, but if Manila mishandles the aftermath of the battle for Marawi and the reconstruction of that city, similar forces could easily arise in the years to come.

(Report from from International Crisis Group. Joseph Franco, Research Fellow with the Centre of Excellence for National Security, helped with research and preparation of this commentary as a Crisis Group consultant.)

Rebels urged to surrender, live peacefully

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jul 21): Rebels urged to surrender, live peacefully

The Philippine Army has urged communist rebels to abandon their armed struggle and return to the fold of law and live peacefully with their families.

Major General Roseller Murillo, commander of the Joint Task Force ZAMPELAN, renewed his appeal to the members of the New People’s Army following a recent clash that killed a senior rebel leader, Edwin Lapinig, in Zamboanga del Norte’s Sindangan town.

Lapinig was killed in firefight with police commandos and soldiers who were trying to arrest him. He opened fire on security forces that left 2 soldiers wounded.

Murillo said operations still continue in the Zamboanga Peninsula and nearby provinces where communist rebels are actively operating. “We will continue our security operations in order to ensure the safety and well-being of the civilians,” he said and at the same time urged families and relatives of rebels to convince communist fighters to abandon their armed struggle and return to the fold of the law and avail of the government’s amnesty program.

Major Ronald Suscano, a spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division, said security forces tracked down Lapinig’s hideout following a long intelligence operation in the province.

The rebel leader, who had a string of criminal cases, was also tagged as behind the killing of 2 soldiers and the disarming of policemen in Don Victoriano Chiongbian town in the neighboring province of Misamis Occidental, and the series of arson attacks on construction sites in Zamboanga Peninsula.

The rebels have been fighting for many decades now for the establishment of a separate Maoist state in the country.

Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao: MILF masaya sa pagkakapasa ng BBL

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jul 21): Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao: MILF masaya sa pagkakapasa ng BBL

Masaya ang pamunuan ng Moro Islamic Liberation Front matapos na pumasa sa bicameral committee ng Kongreso ang kontrobersyal na Bangsamoro Basic Law na siyang gagabay sa isinusulong na awtomiya sa Mindanao.

Sinabi ni Mohagher Iqbal, ang pinuno ng MILF peace panel, na halos 90% ng orihinal na bersyon ng BBL na isinumite ng Bangsamoro Transition Commission ang naipasa sa Kongreso sa kabila ng pagtutol dito ng ilang mga mambabatas na may mga negosyo at lupain sa rehiyon na mapapasailalim ng bagong Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Mohagher Iqbal

Agad rin nagpasalamat si Iqbal, na isa rin vice chairman ng MILF committee on information, sa Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte dahil sa pagsusulong nito sa BBL. “The MILF is extremely happy with the version of the law that will create a Bangsamoro entity to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,” ani Iqbal.

Inaasahan naman na masisimulan sa lalong madaling panahon ang pagliligpit sa mga armas ng dating rebeldeng grupo, ngunit posibleng abutin pa ito ng ilang taon bago maipatupad. Bahagi rin ito ng probisyon sa interim peace deal na nilagdaan ng pamahalaan at MILF noong 2014.

Ipatutupad naman sa Nobyembre ang isang plebisito upang tuluyang maging batas ang BBL at maisama sa bagong rehiyon ang ibang lalawigan at barangay na nais mapaloob sa Bangsamoro homeland.


Naglabas rin ng pahayag si ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman sa pagkakapasa ng BBL at ito ang kabuuan ng kanyang sinabi:

Gov. Mujiv Hataman

“The bicameral conference committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law of the 17th Congress has finished its important task – to approve its report and submit its final draft of a landmark legislation that is essential to acknowledging and addressing the injustices the people of the Bangsamoro region have endured for decades. The House of Representatives and Senate drafts of the BBL have been consolidated, and is now known as the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.” It now awaits the president’s ratification.

This is not the first document that has been drafted and deliberated upon in the hopes of bringing peace to the Bangsamoro, a region where the people have become witnesses to historical injustices from one generation to another. We pray that this new proposed legislation would bring us closer to the dreams our forefathers had for us, and would help us finally realize the future our mujahideen have fought for.

Despite the difficult obstacles we have had to overcome together in the hopes of not only reforming but rebirthing an institution that represents our people, we are now closer that ever to having a regional government that is reflective of our times and is responsive to the most urgent needs of the Bangsamoro.

But more than being a law set on paper, this new Organic Law is now a piece of our history — one that speaks of our struggle as we assert our rights as a people, and of the sacrifices we share together with the Filipino people who were unwavering in their belief and commitment to meaningful development, lasting peace and justice for all.

This law finds meaning not just in the halls of government, but in the communities that have bore the brunt of conflict and injustice against our people. To full realize the peace and development we wish for our people, this law must be upheld always in favor of those who are oppressed and marginalized in our midst. Let us not cease being vigilant. Let us continue the good work that we have started, and make sure that this law will exist not just as mere words on paper, but as a covenant of peace held close to the hearts of our people.

This is not the end. Today, we continue to take steps towards the right direction in our journey to peace as we write a new chapter in our continuing narrative towards claiming our rights as people of the Bangsamoro.”


Pinuri naman ni Rep. Amihilda Sangcopan, ng Anak Mindanao party-list, ang pagkakapasa sa BBL matapos ng isang linggong pagbabalangkas dito.

“Getting to the point where there actually is a BBL was not an easy fight—especially not for us Moro legislators who bore the moral obligations of true representation, to be their voices in this august chambers, more so, our forebears who sought in every arena possible to push for a peaceful and just resolution to almost half a century of struggle for self-determination. Bearing in mind what future Moro generations need, we have done to the utmost all we can to make sure that whatever the final form the BBL takes, Moros will have something better than the status quo that is the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,” ani Sangsopan.

“Collectively, it was a tedious journey, full of pains and learning. Words are not enough to describe the mental and emotional anguish of recalling past aches and bringing into open old wounds. This too, is part of the process of our struggle. This too, tested our wits and convictions as a people. This too will hopefully cement us as one people, paying homage to those who came before us and fought for the Moro’s best interests and aspirations, across our narrative, the story of how we came to be and where we are today. Without their sacrifices and their efforts, we would not be here, on the cusp of true autonomy for the Bangsamoro,” dagdag pa nito.

Salamat Pangulo

Nagpahayag rin ng kagalakan si Ghazali Jaafar, ang vice chairman ng MILF for political affairs, sa resulta ng deliberasyon ng Kongreso sa BBL.

“Una nagpapasalamat po tayo ng buong puso sa mahal nating Pangulo at pinanindigan niya ang commitments at pangako sa atin lahat at sa ilalim ng kanyang pamumuno, under his presidency, ay maisasakatuparan yun kahilingan ng mga Muslim at maraming tribo na maitayo ang Bangsamoro government,” ani Jaafar.

Ghazali Jaafar

Kabilang sa ARMM ang lalawigan ng Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao at Lanao del Sur; gayun rin ang lungsod ng Isabela at Marawi, subalit sa bagong rehiyon ay posibleng mapasama ang ilang mga barangay sa Cotabato City at 6 na bayan sa Lanao del Norte.

Islamic State
Sinigurado naman ni Jaafar na hindi magiging Islamic State ang Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao at mahigpit na ipatutupad ang demokrasyo dito.

“Unang-una, sa aking paningin ang pinakamahalagang bagay na dapat malaman ng mga kababayan natin sakop ng proposed Bangsamoro Government – at ng buong Pilipinas – na ito ay tatawaging Bangsamoro, in short, ay democratic government ito. Inclusive siya, everyone, ibig sabihin nasa mamamayan at ito’y kasama ang gobyerno, at ito po’y may demokrasya. Paiiralin at yung pagpili sa mga mamumuno ay according to democratic process, at yung mga mamumuno nito, they will not rule, but they will govern, at ito po ay hindi Islamic State, at may lugar po ang lahat, every individual non-Muslims, IPs (indigenous peoples) and Christians can fully participate. Anyone who qualifies to run for political position, participated ng mamamayan, they can become officials ng Bangsamoro Government,” paliwanag pa ni Jaafar.


Ipatutupad rin sa Bangsamoro autonomous region ang parliamentary form of government, ayon kay Jaafar at ito ay pamumunuan ng isang Chief Minister na may dalawang deputy Chief Ministers, at mayroon rin Speaker of the Parliament na kabibilangan ng Head Chairman at may mga reserved seat para sa mga kinatawan ng IP, Kristiyano, religious sectors, Kabataan at maging ang mga Sultan o royal families at hindi na rin sila kailangan sumailalim sa isang eleksyon. Nasa 80 ang magiging miyembro ng naturang parliament.

“Ang arrangement po, yun parliament is raised by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, so in this case, we will recommend to our President kung sino yung gusto nating maging miyembro ng parliament, so ibig sabihin kung 80 ang members ng parliament, 40 or 41 ang magiging miyembro ng parliament that will be recommended by us and appointed by the President. Yung remaining 39 na miyembro ng parliament to make it 80, pipiliin po ito ng mahal nating Pangulo sa iba’t ibang probinsya na sakop nitong Bangsamoro Government, and another thing na sa palagay ko na kailangang malaman ng mamamayan, ay yung Bangsamoro Transition Authority, kapag nandiyan na yung batas, ay kailangan pong merong caretaker government, and yung caretaker government ay yung Bangsamoro Transition Authority.”

“It will be January or February 2019, uupo napo ang Bangsamoro Transition Authority at ang members nito will be appointed by the President at maliban dun sa 41 members that the MILF and the 39 that will be selected by the President, kasama po yung miyembro ng kasalukuyang Regional Legistrative Assembly ng ARMM, bilang miyembro in order to finish the terms ng panunungkulan ng miyembro ng Legislative Assembly ng ARMM and this will expire on June 30, 2019. Kung mag-eexpire na yun, aalis na sila bilang miyembro ng Bangsamoro Transition Authority, at hindi na mae-extend ang kanilang membership,” wika pa ni Jaafar.

ARMM employees tagilid
Ngunit nanganganib naman ang libo-libong empleyado ng iba’t-ibang ahensya sa ARMM dahil kailangan nilang mag-apply muli ng trabaho, bagama’t sinabi ni Jaafar na ia-absorb muna pansamantala ang mga ito sa pagpasok ng bagong liderato sa Bangsamoro autonomous region.

“Tungkol don sa mga empleyado, teachers or guro, learned workers, ibig sabihin niyan ang mga doctor, mga nurses, at iba pa, mga social workers, will be absorbed. Hindi po sila gagalawin, mananatili sila sa kanilang position. Yung more or less 6,000 ay gradually aalisin sila sa kanilang mga position, but we assure everyone na ang gobyernong ito ay hindi magiging discriminatory, at inclusive ito to everyone, ibig sabihin yung qualified na empleyado, mag-apply po sila, at kung sila’y qualified they will be appointed by the appointing authority ng gobyernong yun at ito po ang more or less mangyayari,” sabi pa ni Jaafar.

Sayyaf Sabah raider captured in Zamboanga City

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jul 21): Sayyaf Sabah raider captured in Zamboanga City

Police are holding an Abu Sayyaf commander involved in the 2000 kidnapping of 21 European holidaymakers and Asian resort workers in the resort island of Sipadan in Sabah, Malaysia.

Police said the 54-year old Faizal Radjae was captured Friday afternoon in the village of Tumitus. It was unknown how police managed to track down Radjae, but he is facing a string of criminal charges and terrorism in the restive region.

Radjae is currently being interrogated, but details of the investigation were not immediately made available by the police as operation still continue to determine whether the captured militant alone or not, and whether his group was planning to stage attacks ahead of President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address next week.

Police did not say if it seized weapons or bombs from Radjae’s hideout. There was no immediate statement from Radjae’s family. The Abu Sayyaf has been fighting for a caliphate in the southern Philippines.

PIA leads communication planning workshop for personnel in uniform

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 21): PIA leads communication planning workshop for personnel in uniform

The Philippine Information Agency (PIA) held yesterday a capacity building workshop to aid men and women in uniform in developing a good and clear communication plan citing its importance in military operations.

Philippine Information Agency Director General Harold Clavite discusses the importance of communication planning with officers at the AFP’s Civil-Military Operations (CMO) School. The lecture-workshop was held Friday (July 20) at the Bulwagang Reyes in Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City. (Photo by Nelson Ortiz/PIA-NCR)
PIA Director General Harold E. Clavite spoke before twenty-one (21) officers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and the Bureau of Jail and Management Penology (BJMP)lecture-workshop held at the Bulwagang Reyes in Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Clavite stressed the importance of having a strategic communication plan to advance an organizational mission.

“As communicators, we need to be more focused on transactional communication more than the transmission of information,”he said.


Participants composed of officers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and the Bureau of Jail and Management Penology (BJMP) simulate the creation of a strategic communication plan to advance an organizational mission. (Photo by Nelson Ortiz/PIA-NCR)

 “A communication plan formally defines who should be given specific information, when the information should be delivered, and what communication channels should be used,”Clavite added explaining that in transactional communication feedback of the message recipient is also being solicited.

The PIA chief said the development of a communication plan serves as a guide that focuses on the message and the target audience.

“Having a plan influences the efficiency and simplicity of the communication methods that can be used making it more effective and lasting,” Clavite said citing the importance of the accurate information which is imperative in the military operations.

Clavite also noted that although the use of modern technology as channels of communication nowadays is being adapted, effective communication still lies in the ability of the people who uses it. He pointed that majority of the current messages on the internet focuses on visuals and 93 percent (93%) non-verbal.

By this, Clavite reminded the participants to be responsible users of social media users and be wary of fake social media accounts proliferating online.

The event was a part of the AFP’s Civil-Military Operations (CMO) School’s six-week course designed to equip current and prospective CMO planners and operations officers with the knowledge, skills and attitude to effectively plan, implement and evaluate programs on preventing and countering violent extremism.

Army soldiers ready to serve as backup force on Monday's SONA

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 22): Army soldiers ready to serve as backup force on Monday's SONA

CAMP MELCHOR DELA CRUZ, Gamu, Isabela -- Military troops from the 5th Infantry Division here would only serve as a backup contingent “if the need arises” during President Rodrigo Duterte's State of the Nation Address on July 23.

“We would back up the military and police personnel as we have contingencies, if ever,” Army Major General Perfecto Rimando, 5th Infantry Division commander, told the Philippine News Agency in an interview Saturday, shortly after the graduation rites of 243 new Army soldiers at the camp here.

Rimando said the President has the Presidential Security Group as the main core of his security forces while the police and military members in the National Capital Region would primary be backing up the PSG members, he added.

“We are ever ready to have our additional forces,” he added.

As to the new Army soldiers, Rimando said they would be beefing up battalions in the Cordillera and Cagayan Valley regions or even in Mindanao areas.

Suspected Reds kill 2 cops in Palawan

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 22): Suspected Reds kill 2 cops in Palawan

Two policemen in Taytay town in Palawan were shot dead in an ambush by suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) on Sunday.

A source of the Philippine News Agency (PNA), who asked for anonymity, identified the fatalities as PO1 Julpitri Gustaham and PO3 Alexander Mimbalawag of the Taytay Municipal Police Station (MPS).

The policemen were ambushed at around 10:50 a.m. in the vicinity of Sitio Takayan, Barangay Bato while on their way back to their police station after responding to a vehicular accident in the area.

The source said an “undetermined number” of NPA members ambushed the two policemen’s vehicle.

Palawan Police Provincial Office (PPO) spokesperson Senior Insp. Ric Ramos confirmed the incident in a phone call to PNA.

The official, however, declined to provide details on the incident.

The ambush came a day after the Armed Forces of the Philippines expressed confidence that localized peace talks might end the insurgency problem in the country.

No security threats to 3rd SONA: AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 22): No security threats to 3rd SONA: AFP

The Armed Forces of the Philipines (AFP) said it has not monitored any security threat to President Rodrigo Duterte's third State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 23.

This was the assurance given by AFP public affairs office chief, Col. Noel Detoyato, in a statement Saturday.

"As of this report, the AFP has not monitored any threat from local terrorist groups however, its forces will continue to be on proactive stance against all threats of violence and will exert every effort to preserve the peace, particularly in NCR (National Capital Region) the seat of government is," he added.

Detoyato called on the public to report to authorities any suspicious-looking individuals and activities in their respective areas.

"The fight against terrorism and preservation of peace is a shared responsibility of everyone," he said.

The AFP has raised its alert level to "red" in the General Headquarters area in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City and AFP Wide Service Support Units since 8 a.m. Friday to ensure that the said units are capable of immediate readiness to respond against any threats that may arise during the SONA.

Meanwhile, Detoyato said Joint Task Force-National Capital Region (JTF-NCR) will take the lead in supporting the Philippine National Police's security operations for Monday's event.

JTF-NCR will deploy three infantry companies, two infantry platoons, seven civil disturbance management companies, three search-and-rescue response teams, one air defense asset team and two chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear explosives teams.

Nothing alarming about visit of Chinese planes, ships: AFP spox

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 22): Nothing alarming about visit of Chinese planes, ships: AFP spox

There is nothing to be alarmed about the recent visit of Chinese planes and ships in Davao City.

This, according to Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Col. Edgard Arevalo in an interview.

"There is no cause for alarm sapagkat hindi lang naman ang China ang bansang bumibisita rito (because China is not the only country that visits us). Siguro, naha-highlight lang natin yung China because of the reasons na sinasabi natin na may (Maybe the matter about China is just highlighted because of the reasons such as the WPS [West Philippine Sea] issue but ang mahalagang bagay na dapat ilagay natin sa isip natin ay ito ay bahagi ng isang (the real matter that we should remember is that this is a part of an) international convention na kahit sinong bansa na kung nangangailangan (that any country in need of), especially refurbishing, allowed naman po yan kagaya ng ating bansa nangangailangan nating mag-refuel, nangangailangan tayo ng (refurbishing) sa ibang bansa pinapayagan din tayo (That is allowed. Just like us, when we need to re-fuel or refurbish in another country, we are allowed to do so)," Arevalo said.

What is needed is that the requesting party or country is able to acquire a diplomatic clearance, Arevalo added.

On July 16, Chinese vessel, Yuan Wang 3, docked in Davao City for replenishment.

The above-mentioned ship arrived 8:14 p.m. Monday and stayed in the country until July 19.

"They are here for replenishment as granted by the diplomatic clearance issues by higher authorities. This is a routine ship visit similar to any other foreign ship wishing to call on our ports," Philippine Navy (PN) spokesperson Cmdr. Jonathan Zata said.

"It's completely routine, nothing unusual about the visit. We had Chinese warships calling on our ports in the past the same as with any other warships from other countries," he added.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, meanwhile, echoed Zata's remarks.

"Yes. We know about it. The Chinese Ambassador (Zhao Jianhua) wrote to the SFA (Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alan Peter) Cayetano that it would be docking in Davao to refurbish and it was allowed to do so," Lorenzana said.

The ship is used for tracking and support of satellites and ballistic missiles. Yuan Wang 3 was launched in 1994 and delivered in 1995. It is reportedly capable of speeds up to 20 knots and has a range of 18,000 nautical miles.

Despite defeat in Marawi, IS-Maute threat persists

From the Business Mirror (Jul 21): Despite defeat in Marawi, IS-Maute threat persists

NINE months after the government stopped the bloody—and absolutely destructive attempt—launched by the Islamic State and its local affiliate the Maute Group, collectively referred to as the IS-Maute Group, to establish an Islamic caliphate in Southeast Asia by laying siege to Marawi City, the band is now attempting to stage a comeback. The strategy: fill up their decimated ranks with recruits coming from madrasahs, or Islamic schools, in the country.

In this October 17, 2017, file photo, hundreds of evacuees are housed in a multipurpose hall at Balo-i, Lanao del Norte, after fleeing the besieged city of Marawi.

The recruitment scheme by the badly beaten terrorists was uncovered by the military in the flurry of surrenders by their colleagues, showing evolving and shifting tactics in the terrorists’ effort to once again beef up their membership in preparation for a possible showdown with the government again in the future.

In light of the recruitment activities by the terrorists, the role of madrasahs in the growth and spread of Islamic extremism, particularly in Mindanao, was again put in the spotlight.

In the past, some Islamic schools in the country have been accused by the Armed Forces of the Philippines of helping beef up the ranks of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), the regional terror group Jema’ah Islamiyah (JI) and the other terror cells that operate in the region by serving as the platforms for the extremist indoctrination of some misguided Moros.

‘Good vs evil’

According to Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., deputy commander of the Joint Task Force Ranao, the recruitment effort of the IS-Maute Group was uncovered during the debriefing of surrenderers from the terrorist group.

By his latest count, at least 48 members of the group have already yielded to the government, most of them coming from Lanao provinces.

Brawner said a terrorist who was debriefed claimed to have come from a madrasah from upland Baguio City. There, in the country’s summer capital, he was indoctrinated with extremist teachings.

Displaced residents fleeing to safer areas on a convoy of vehicles stop at a roadside as government troops battle with Muslim militants on May 29, 2017, in Marawi, Southern Philippines.
“We have one in Baguio City,” the military official said in confirming the presence of an Islamic school there. Brawner incidentally traces his roots from the same city.

The other terrorists who have also yielded to the military had come from other selected madrasah schools in Mindanao and in other parts of the country, thus raising fears that the IS may no longer be confined in Mindanao, a possibility which Brawner dismissed.

The military official said they have been working to stem the recruitment of the IS-Maute Group with the help of imams and other moderate Moro preachers by visiting madrasahs, wherein they expound on the evils of extremism and, at the same time, on the goodness of Islam as a peace-loving religion.

“We are working to stop it with the help of moderate imams and other Muslim preachers by visiting the schools,” Brawner said.

‘Money, ideology and defection’

The effort to reinforce its ranks, through the help of Islamic schools, is apparently being taken by the IS-Maute Group, as it also recruits in Moro-dominated regions, with particular focus on Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur.

It also recruits members from the ranks of evacuees pushed out of their homes by the battle in Marawi last year. Thousands of families have yet to be permanently resettled by the government and most of them are housed in shelters in neighboring Lanao del Norte.

“They recruit using money and by the call of ideology and defection,” said Brawner, with the recruitment being centered on children and those made orphans by the Marawi siege.

Children are reportedly being encouraged to join the IS-Maute for an enlistment fee of P70,000 and a monthly pay of up to P20,000. The call is also issued to the relatives of Maute members who died while fighting soldiers during the bloody operation.

Army chief Lt. Gen. Rolando Joselito Bautista said earlier that the recruitment of the terrorist group is not only confined in Lanao provinces, but is also being undertaken in Central Mindanao, with Maguindanao and its neighboring provinces as the centers of the activity.

Bautista declared that it would take years for the terrorist group to carry out an attack similar to the scale they have embarked upon in Marawi even with its current phase of recruitment.

In Maguindanao, however, three groups that have broken away from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters led by battle-hardened commanders are already fighting under the shadow of the IS, with which they have aligned themselves.

Two of these groups are headed by Commanders Esmail Abdulmalik and Salahuddin Hassan, who calls his group Jamaatu al-Muhajireen wal Ansar.

Abdulmalik is the right-hand man of Malaysian Jema’ah Islamiyah leader Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, who was killed in a counterterrorism operation in January 2015, where 44 police commandos also died.

No more than 50 fighters
Brawner said the continuing operations by the military and the successive surrender of members have pared down the number of the IS-Maute Group to not more than 50 fighters, and they are operating under Owaida Marohombsar, alias Abu Dar.

The military claimed Marohombsar assumed the leadership of the group after Isnilon Hapilon, a former ASG commander and the acknowledged leader of the IS in Southeast Asia, was killed in Marawi last year.

Before he retired, then Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa, however, claimed that Mauiyah, a Singaporean jihadist and top leader of the JI who has long been in the country, became the head of the IS after the death of Hapilon.

Dela Rosa based his statement on information that were ferreted out during a debriefing of Maute Group members who were successively arrested in Metro Manila, where they earlier sought sanctuary.

An earlier report by the military claimed that some 300 terrorists, including 10 of their subleaders, have escaped the raging battle in Marawi, and at least three of them were arrested in Metro Manila during dela Rosa’s term with the PNP.

A couple of days ago, the government arrested Nafisah Pundog, wife of Marohombsar, during an operation in General Santos City.

IS threat, a top regional concern

While the IS may already be on the retreat in the country, its aborted attempt to establish a caliphate in Marawi in collaboration with the Maute Group has both confirmed its presence in Southeast Asia and the creation of its East Asia division.

As such, it not only threatens the country, but the whole of Southeast Asia—something noted early this year by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong when the island city-state hosted the first meeting of Asean leaders.

Singapore, as this year’s host of the regional grouping, declared that terrorism is a “very real threat,” and is already at the top of the region’s security concerns.

The statement followed concerns aired by experts who had also met in Singapore that Mindanao may yet be the perfect base for terrorists in the region, including returning IS fighters who fought abroad, because of its unstable condition and porous border.

The sentiments were aired as the government admitted that there are at least 18 other active terror cells in the country.

Whatever is the true number of the IS remnants, and how successful they have been in drawing new blood from the orphans of Marawi and certain Islamic schools, is something that the State forces have yet to determine with certainty. Meantime, the threat of them unleashing yet another wave of terror hangs over the heads of those tasked to secure the troubled south. It’s an endless, thankless, perilous task. And one can only hope the few good men and women on this mission will never fail.