Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Joint PH, Japanese, US forces kick off military exercise with humanitarian aspect

From the Manila Bulletin (Sep 11): Joint PH, Japanese, US forces kick off military exercise with humanitarian aspect

Combined Philippine, Japanese and United States forces have kicked off with the humanitarian aspect of the second “Kaagapay Ng Mga Mandirigma Ng Dagat” (KAMANDAG) military exercise through the renovation of a high school and two daycare centers in Ternate, Cavite.

In a statement on Tuesday, the US Embassy in Manila said engineering and construction projects will take place at three different sites in Ternate to improve local infrastructure and strengthen ties with Philippine communities.

Considered as a preparatory part of the exercise, the official KAMANDAG 2, is scheduled for October 1-10, 2018.

This year’s KAMANDAG 2 will also see the participation of Japanese forces.

While in Ternate, US and Philippine military medical teams will also teach hundreds of Ternate residents about lifesaving skills, disease prevention, and dental hygiene.

According to the Embassy, exercises like KAMANDAG 2 strengthen international partnerships and the participating militaries’ abilities to rapidly respond to crises throughout the Indo-Pacific region.

“The goal of KAMANDAG 2 is to increase counterterrorism and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capabilities through military exchanges,” it said.

The first KAMANDAG exercise was conducted in October 2017 at multiple locations in Luzon.

“The purpose of this Philippines-led military exercise is to conduct bilateral exchanges between Philippine and U.S. forces. Exercise training will enhance cooperation and interoperability between the Philippines and the U.S., consistent with the Mutual Defense Treaty and Visiting Forces Agreement, as we continue our commitment to share information and provide support to each other throughout a range of military operations,” the US Marines said on its official website.

Photo: Murad as Voter

From MindaNews (Sep 12): Photo: Murad as Voter

At the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s Camp Darapanan on Wednesday morning, 12 September 2018, MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and Sammy Al-Mansoor, chief of staff of the MILF’s armed wing, Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (not in photo), lead thousands of MILF combatants in registering to be a voter in future Philippine electoral exercises, the first of which is the January 21, 2019 plebiscite on RA 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.  A three-day special registration of the Commission on Elections began September 11 in areas where the plebiscite will be held. Photo by A. IBNUSMAN

Passport to jihad: European foreign fighters joining ISIS in the Philippines

Posted to The Defense Post (Sep 12): Passport to jihad: European foreign fighters joining ISIS in the Philippines (By Robert Postings)

As Islamic State loses territory in Iraq and Syria, the Philippines could offer an attractive alternative destination for those seeking to travel from the west to fight

ISIS graffiti Marawi, the Philippines

Graffiti left by ISIS militants in Marawi, the Philippines. Image: @natashya_g/Twitter

As Islamic State has suffered significant losses of its core Syrian and Iraqi territory, those wishing to fight for the group have needed to look elsewhere. The Philippines is one place that appears to have become a more attractive destination for ISIS supporters. This year has seen previously unprecedented attempts by Europeans trying to join ISIS in the Philippines, with some successfully making the journey.

Following their declaration of a caliphate in 2014, ISIS started receiving pledges of allegiance, or bayah, from militant groups around the world. This included multiple Philippines-based groups including several Abu Sayeef battalions, the Maute Group, Ansharul Khilafah Philippines, and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. These groups along with others from the region were organized as Islamic State in East Asia. ISIS appointed the Filipino militant Isnilon Hapilon to be the overall Emir, though in practice there was significant operational independence among different groups.

Militants in the Philippines pledging allegiance to ISIS
Even before pledging allegiance to ISIS some of these Filipino groups had welcomed foreign fighters, normally from nearby countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. But following their bayah, larger numbers of foreign fighters, including those from outside the region, started to arrive.

During the battle of Marawi, between May and October 2017 when ISIS militants overran the southern city, their presence received widespread attention. As well as regional fighters from nearby countries there were also multiple reports of foreigners from further afield. The nationality and number of these non-regional foreign fighters is hard to clarify, but Filipino government officials have stated that militants from Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Chechnya were present, while other sources report more nationalities.

Would-be European foreign fighters attempt to travel

A few months later, on January 22, a Spanish man was arrested on Basilan, an island near Mindanao with an active ISIS insurgency. This was the first known case of a European successfully travelling to the Philippines to join an ISIS group. In his possession were two grenades and bomb-making parts, and he was with a known local ISIS militant at the time of his arrest.

Also in January, Lewis Ludlow, a U.K. national, was stopped while trying to board a flight to the Philippines where he was planning to join an ISIS group. Despite being prevented from traveling he still supported ISEA from the U.K., setting up Facebook and Paypal accounts to send funds to support terrorism in the region.

Ludlow was in contact with a man in the Philippines known as Abu Yaqeen. Paweł Wójcik, an expert on ISIS affiliates, told The Defense Post a man with that name is based on the island of Sulu in the Philippines. If that is the same person Ludlow was communicating with, Sulu could have been his potential destination. The Defense Post has so far been unable to confirm they are the same person.

In April, two people unsuccessfully attempted to travel from Germany to the Philippines to join ISIS. One German man was apprehended by police before leaving the country, while a second, Turkish national Emre U., made it to Bangkok before being arrested and deported.

Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office told The Defense Post that there have been three such exits or attempted exits towards the Philippines. They declined to provide information about the third exit, including whether the person successfully reached their destination.

Finally, someone left Switzerland between May and August and successfully joined a jihadist group in the Philippines according to information released by the Swiss government. Multiple Swiss government agencies declined to provide further details to The Defense Post but considering the nature of jihadist groups in the Philippines this person most likely joined an ISIS affiliated group.

These cases together represent an unprecedented movement of Europeans trying to or successfully joining ISIS in the Philippines.

Preceding them there was only one known attempt: Ryan Counsell was arrested in 2016 while planning to leave Britain for the Philippines. It is notable that this case was also not as advanced as those from 2018, where individuals had moved beyond planning to actually traveling.

In addition to Europeans, other non-regional foreign fighters have also traveled to the Philippines this year. An Egyptian man was arrested while attempting to reach Basilan in February. A UAE-born man was also arrested that month; significantly he was reportedly a former ISIS commander in Syria.

Photo released by ISIS showing the Moroccan man responsible for a suicide vehicle bomb attack in Basilan, the Philippines.

On July 31, a van filled with explosives was driven to a security forces checkpoint on the island of Basilan and detonated. Eleven people were killed, including the driver, and several more were injured. In a claim for the attack issued by its Amaq agency, ISIS identified the driver as a Moroccan man. According to the government in Manila, his children were also in the country. A photoset released by ISIS in August also showed a man of Arabic appearance, and a child who may have been his son.
A new and growing destination for potential ISIS fighters?

There are a number of factors that may be behind the increase in would-be foreign fighters attempting to travel to the Philippines, and it will likely remain a popular destination in the future. In recent years, some 40,000 foreigners are believed to have traveled to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS. However, recent major defeats have reduced the group’s strength there there to an insurgency with limited territorial control. Traveling to this core territory is no longer the option it once was for foreigners – if they want to fight for ISIS they have to look for another destination.

Outside of its core territory many of ISIS’s various affiliates have also drawn foreign fighters. However, the relatively weaker strength of these branches and the difficulty in reaching them mean that they have not become attractive for non-regional foreign fighters, with a few exceptions.

Libya was once a potential destination, but ISIS’s presence there has also been reduced to an insurgency. There have also been reports of non-regional foreign fighters traveling to join Islamic State-Khorasan Province, the group’s wilayat in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This includes claims of French and Algerian fighters, but there too ISIS has suffered setbacks. Its forces in the northern province of Jowzjan collapsed in recent months with their territory being captured by the Taliban and several hundred fighters surrendering to the Afghan government, potentially making it a less desirable location then it once was.

Compared to other branches, ISEA has many attributes which make it a more attractive destination. Awareness of the group’s activity in the country has been raised recently, particularly during the battle of Marawi.

ISIS militants with captured armored vehicles in Marawi, the Philippines. Image: @Terror_Monitor/Twitter
While a physical loss for ISIS, with the death of almost 1,000 fighters including the emir, Isnilon Hapilon, and many other key commanders, the Marawi fight suddenly thrust the Philippines into the spotlight amongst ISIS supporters. The demonstration that ISEA had the ability to seize an entire city was a great success for them, showing off a capability that few other ISIS branches have achieved.

This effect was boosted by the large volume of propaganda produced during the battle including Amaq statements, photosets, and short videos detailing the fighting.

The tenth edition of Rumiyah, the group’s monthly magazine, was subtitled “The Jihad in East Asia” and contained multiple articles focusing on the Philippines. Al Hayat released Inside the Caliphate 3 which was filmed in Marawi, the only one of the seven videos in the series that was filmed outside Iraq and Syria. A nasheed, a form of vocal music popular in the Islamic world and often used by ISIS as the soundtrack to its videos, was also released dedicated to the fighters there, entitled “The Brothers in Marawi.”

Propaganda continues to be released, though at a lower rate than during the battle, keeping the Philippines prominent in the minds of ISIS supporters. Amaq often reports on fighting between ISIS militants and security forces, while photos are also released showing combat, everyday life, and eulogising dead fighters. As long as ISIS can continue to produce propaganda from the Philippines it will likely continue to attract foreign fighters there.

Foreign fighters offer experience and propaganda value

Perhaps most significantly, ISIS issued several calls for people to travel to the Philippines.

A video released by Al Hayat in September 2017 featured a Singaporean foreign fighter in Syria calling on people to “Join the ranks of the Mujahidin in East Asia, and inflict black days upon the crusaders. Otherwise, make your way to Sham [Syria], Khurasan, Yemen, West Africa, and Libya.”

A still from an ISIS propaganda video, calling on people to travel to East Asia to join the group.

It is significant that East Asia was highlighted as the first destination suggested to potential foreign fighters. Hapilon in an interview with Rumiyah in June 2017 also encouraged people to travel to the Philippines.

The Philippines is tourist destination with regular flights from Europe and elsewhere in the world, unlike the active warzones and failed states where most ISIS branches operate. This makes it much easier for foreign fighters to reach, and gives greater plausible deniability to those attempting to travel there. When stopped at the airport, the U.K. national Ludlow claimed he was a “sex tourist.” His passport was confiscated but he was not arrested.

Even if traveling to the Philippines overtly is difficult, there are still well-worn smuggling routes into the country for a would-be foreign fighter, through the island-strewn waters separating Malaysia from the southern Philippines. ISIS has set up cells in Malaysia with the explicit purpose of helping to facilitate travel.

For ISIS in the Philippines, a possible influx of foreign fighters provides several benefits. The battle of Marawi saw heavy losses for the group with almost 1,000 militants dead, and fighting since then will have also taken a toll. New recruits will be important to help rebuild ISEA ranks, even if potential fighters from places like Europe are unlikely to have previous combat experience.

Experienced foreign fighters, such as the Egyptian who was reportedly an ISIS commander in Syria, will be even more of an asset. If they have fought in other locations, such as Syria, they could bring important lines of communication to ISIS central or to other branches. These fighters also bring technical expertise, and new tactics that could help intensify ISIS activities in the Philippines. Foreigners who can provide training in bomb-making or weapons handling could help increase the effectiveness of local militants.

The Basilon SVBIED attack in July is potentially the result of foreign experience and shows how the adoption of tactics used by ISIS in Iraq and Syria can be beneficial to affiliates.

Hugo Kaaman, an analyst who researches SVBIEDs told The Defense Post that images that circulated on social media claiming to show the vehicle’s payload showed bombs that “appeared visually very similar to the standardized IEDs that ISIS typically use in their SVBIED payloads,” suggesting some form of information-sharing.

ISEA could now obtain advanced information on weapons that ISIS refined over years of fighting in Iraq and Syria. Kaaman explained this could allow ISEA to “employ SVBIEDs in an efficient and advanced manner without themselves having to go through the extensive refinement process.”

In addition, local militants have shown significant aversion to carrying out suicide attacks and this may have been why the driver of the Basilan SVBIED was from Morocco. An influx of foreigners could allow this tactic to be used more often, a dangerous prospect for Filipino security services and civilians who could become targets.

Foreign fighters can deliver a propaganda boost. Using foreigners, especially westerners, in their propaganda in a way reminiscent of ISIS in Iraq and Syria could boost its effectiveness, and would also inspire others to attempt to reach ISEA.

According to Wojcik, the expert on ISIS affiliates, the Philippines government should be worried about foreign fighters. They would cause “a consolidation of heavy salafi-jihadi ideology, and a potential change in jihadi landscape, resulting in more violence in the Philippines,” he said. A more radicalized and internationalized conflict with ISEA using deadlier tactics would be increasingly difficult for the Philippines to combat.

Fighters pose problems on their return

There are also concerns for Europe. The potential for returnees was one of many issues raised during the flood of foreign fighters to Syria. While the number of foreign fighters traveling to the Philippines will almost certainly never come near the tens of thousands who journeyed to Iraq and Syria, they still pose problems.

Returnees require monitoring by already overstretched intelligence services. Even if they do not carry out any violent acts following their return they could join, build, or expand radicalized networks in their home countries.

A more immediate issue could be the risk of so-called remote-control attacks, in which an ISIS member based in the group’s territory uses internet communication to coach someone else to stage an attack in their own country. The attacker is guided every step of the way, given necessary support and advice, and in some cases, weapons or explosives have been supplied.

Previous attacks were mainly remote-controlled from Syria, but the group’s losses there have made this tactic harder to carry out.

Branches outside ISIS Central have also deployed this tactic. Foreigners operating from ISIS territory in other countries such as Afghanistan have attempted to stage remote control attacks in the past. If Westerners start operating in the Philippines more often, the possibility of them attempting to stage remote control attacks in their home countries should not be ruled out.

Filipino doctor Russell Langi Salic is accused of plotting terrorist attacks in New York City on behalf of ISIS. The US Department of Justice charged Salic with kidnapping and murder in the beheading of sawmill workers in the Philippines in 2016. Image: Bullit Marquez/AP

There is already some precedence for this in the Philippines. The Filipino man, Russel Salic was implicated in a planned attack in New York. He sent funds and was communicating with a Canadian man who planned to carry it out.

Salic is also believed to have funded attacks elsewhere, having sent money to a Jasanizam Bin Rosni in Malaysia. Two days later, eight people were killed in a grenade attack that was claimed by ISIS. Rosni was later arrested for his involvement in the attack.

The current influx of foreigners has not yet matched 2016 and 2017 in the number of arrivals according to Wojcik, but he pointed out this has the potential to change. With limited locations for non-regional foreign fighters to travel to, the Philippines could well become an increasingly popular destination. The ability of ISIS to continue to promote its East Asia branch through propaganda will also likely heavily affect the number of potential foreign fighters.

What is certain is that the recent number of attempts by Europeans is unprecedented. Although only a handful of Europeans have succeeded in the journey, the risk that this is the start of a larger trend should be a concern for the Philippines, nearby nations, and Europe. A more internationalized and radicalized conflict will be more dangerous for the Philippines and the foreign fighters’ own home countries, while helping provide ISIS with a reliable overseas branch at a time where they are suffering setbacks elsewhere.

A Couple of Fishermen Have Been Abducted by Armed Pirates In Malaysia

From the Maritime Herald (Sep 12): A Couple of Fishermen Have Been Abducted by Armed Pirates In Malaysia

Early Tuesday morning, two Indonesian fishermen in Sabah, Malaysia, were abducted by armed attackers when they boarded their trawler, according to piracy reports. This is the first kidnapping reported this year. This area has been a dangerous hot spot for pirate activity in the past.

The attack happened at 0100 hours Tuesday when two men with M16 rifles approached and boarded a fishing vessel north of Pulau Bodgaya, an island about 30 km southeast of Lahad Datu. The Pirates took two of the boat’s crewmembers with them and headed in their speedboat towards Tawi Tawi, the Philippines. Their ultimate destination was believed to be Talipao, Sulu, an area where the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group has previously based its kidnapping-for-ransom operations.

Two fishermen managed to escape the attackers by hiding on board the trawler. After their crewmates were abducted, these two men returned to shore at Semporna and reported the attack. No shots were fired during the boarding.

ReCAAP noted that this is the first abduction in 2018 in the waters of the Sulu-Celebes Seas and off Sabah. The last successful kidnapping reported to the ReCAAP occurred on board Super Shuttle Tug 1 on March 23, 2017, and the last attempted incident occurred on board the Kudos 1 on February 16, 2018.

ReCAAP still maintains its previous advisory to mariners, which cautions masters to avoid the region if possible and exercise additional vigilance if required to transit these waters.

In 2016, Abu Sayyaf conducted a sustained series of kidnappings from fishing vessels, tugs and merchant ships in the waters off Sabah. The group kidnapped dozens of seafarers during its peak period of piracy, and it killed several by beheading when ransoms went unpaid.

Last year, the Armed Forces of the Philippines conducted a surge operation against Abu Sayyaf in the Sulu Archipelago, and it had considerable success in destroying bases of operation and capturing suspected fighters. Key Abu Sayyaf leaders, including the group’s chief Isnilon Hapilon and known kidnapping unit, heads Badong Muktadil and Guro Idzri, were killed in the fighting.

Philippine forces have also had some success with interdicting pirate attacks in progress: In November 2017, Philippine Naval Forces Western Mindanao intercepted and arrested six suspected Abu Sayyaf pirates during an attempted boarding.
  Source: Maritime Executive

Police on the lookout for foreign terrorists: PRO-11

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 12): Police on the lookout for foreign terrorists: PRO-11

The Police Regional Office (PRO)-11 is on the lookout for foreigners who are possibly tied with local terrorists in Mindanao.

PRO-11 spokesperson Chief Insp. Milgrace Driz said they "have names" of foreigners who are in Mindanao and possibly having alliance with terrorists but she begged off from revealing their number.

Driz said the series of bombings in Mindanao have prompted the conduct of an intensified intelligence monitoring by the police. The latest reported violent incident was the two explosions in Isulan town, Sultan Kudarat earlier this month that left three persons dead and 36 others wounded.

Driz said all police units have been directed not to downgrade the full alert status and to intensify intelligence gathering to track down terrorists and prevent further atrocities.

Last week, PRO-11 Director Chief Supt. Marcelo Morales ordered police units around the region to implement "target hardening" measures on vital facilities.

He also reminded police units that the full alert status remains in effect after it was raised following the first bombing incident in Isulan on August 28.

“Stay, toe the line, and maintain pro-active (stance) with the area of Davao region,” Morales said.

As authorities in Region 12 investigate the Isulan incident, the PRO-11 chief also directed all police units to conduct lateral coordination with police counterparts in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and other law enforcement agencies.

“Strengthen and tighten the conduct of security measures, intensify intelligence monitoring and conduct pro-active measures on target hardening,” Morales ordered the lawmen.

This developed after the PNP filed cases last week in relation to the Isulan and Lamitan, Basilan bomb explosions.

Among those named responsible were Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) member Aladin Mohammad Kikay as primary suspect; Esmael Abdulmalik alias "Abu Turaife"; Imam Animbang alias "Kagui Karialan"; Salahuddin Hassan; Gani Saligan; Jihad Abdulnasser alias "Jay-R"; Jihad Salapada Sabtula alias "Norton"; Abdulnasser Sabtula Guianid; Ismael Abubakar alias "Imam Bungos"; Morex Musa; Salahudin Eson; Totin Kutin; Raymond Ibad; Marcos Mula; Tukan Ulinpain; Arnold Sanday; Mohammad Gibon, alias "Momong Esmail"; alias "Nasser Macambang"; alias "Ustadz Roman"; alias "Kagui Tatang"; alias "Commander Saga Endong"; alias "Jabo"; alias "Dani Maliga", alias "Magsaysay" and several other John Does.

Duterte’s Red tagging intensifies attacks vs labor union workers –KMU

Posted to the often pro-Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) online publication the Davao Today (Sep 12): Duterte’s Red tagging intensifies attacks vs labor union workers –KMU

A progressive labor group here blamed President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement tagging their group as a communist front for the intensified attacks against workers and their unions in Compostella Valley province.

“The attacks on workers-unionists have intensified in Compostela Valley after President Duterte declared the Communist Party of the Philippines a ‘terrorist’ organization and then maliciously tagged KMU and other progressive organizations as legal fronts of the Communist Party,” KMU said in a statement.

KMU said that Duterte’s red tagging has endangered the lives of labor union leaders such as the recent case of Victor Ageas, labor union leader of the Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farm (NAMAFUSA-NAFLU-KMU), who stood against the Japanese giant Sumitomo Fruit Corp. (Sumifru) in Compostela Valley province.

Ageas had survived a slay try after motorcycle-riding gunmen shot him on Tuesday morning (September 4) while he was heading for work at Sumifru Packing Plant 340 at Barangay Osmeña in Compostela town.

According to KMU, Ageas led the protest action along with Namafusa workers against Sumifru in Compostela town last September 3. He had also received a death threat back in July when two suspected intelligence operatives went to his house looking for him.

Apart from Ageas, KMU said, another labor union leader, Melodina Gumanoy, secretary of Namafusa-Naflu-KMU, was also targeted when motorcycle-riding gunmen on August 30 attempted to kill her while she was on her way for work in Packing Plant 250 owned by Sumifru at Osmeña village, Compostela town.

KMU has attributed the string of harassments against labor union leaders and workers in Compostela to the Army’s 66th and 25th Infantry Battalion for “their vilification and harassments against unionists in the said area and intimidation of workers and residents in forced surrender schemes.”

“The attacks in Compostela are not only against the workers but also on the peasants as scores are being killed. KMU holds the AFP and President Duterte accountable for these blatant violations of the workers’ economic and political rights,” the group said.

Ageas’ and Gumanoy’s union, the Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farm (NAMAFUSA-NAFLU-KMU, has engaged in a labor row with Sumifru after the banana firm refused to grant their demand for regularization and a new bargaining agreement.

 KMU in Southern Mindanao condemnedSumifru’s offensive acts against Namafusa, and the attempted killing of its labor union officials.

Namafusa had allied with Bigwas, a cluster of banana packing plant unions, which was formed back in March 2015 when the Japanese giant banana firm implemented the piece-rate payment scheme of which Bigwas branded the scheme as “exploitative”.

Bigwas, the umbrella of an organization of banana packing plant unions, was instrumental in replacing the piece-rate system as workers are now paid per hour contained in the agreement signed by Sumifru and Kilusang Mayo Uno on April 22, 2015.

“KMU believes that these attacks are the Duterte government’s move to protect the business interests of Sumifru and mining companies in the area,” the labor group said.

US-backed airstrike displaces thousands of Moro families in Maguindanao

Posted to the often pro-Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) online publication the Davao Today (Sep 12): US-backed airstrike displaces thousands of Moro families in Maguindanao

An airstrike in Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao has displaced thousands of families, wounded three persons and left one civilian casualty in a bid to run after the rebels behind the twin bombings in Isulan town, Sultan Kudarat, an official of a Moro group said Tuesday.

Jerome Succor Aba, national chairperson of the progressive group SuaraBangsamoro, said the airstrike led by the Armed Forces of the Philippines on September 4 was assisted by elite US Special Forces, a move viewed by Aba as an intrusion on the country’s sovereign rights.

“We condemn President Rodrigo Duterte for committing treachery by violating the country’s sovereign rights by allowing US troops to participate in combat operations and sponsor genocidal attacks on Moro people such as in the recent aerial bombardments in Maguindanao in the name of the US-led war on terror,” Aba said in a statement.

The US-backed air strike, according to Aba, has forced 400 children and 50 pregnant women to leave their homes and seek shelter elsewhere for their own safety.

“Historically, the presence and involvement of US troops in several Filipino military combat operations has left a large number of civilian casualties,” he said.

Suara cited the case of a Moro family who were massacred on February 2018 after elements of SWAG-8 and US-trained Light Reaction Company conducted a pre-dawn raid at Bgy. Ipil, Maimbong, Sulu. The military claimed that it was a legitimate encounter with the Abu Sayyaf bandits.

Added to these were the Mamasapano massacre on January 2015 and Marawi siege 2017, the Moro group said. “Both the US and the Philippine governments should be held liable for this death toll as the war on terror has imposed large-scale attacks against Moro people,” it said.

Suara demands a probe to look into the impact of what they call as US military intervention in Moro communities, specifically in Mindanao where US troops have bases in Camp Ranao in Marawi City and Camp Navarro in Zamboanga City.

“We believe that the deployment of US soldiers in Moro areas has exacerbated ‘terrorism’ in Mindanao. There should also be an investigation on the role of the US government in the creation of terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda, Abu Sayyaf Group and ISIS,” the group said.

Earlier this month, the US vowed that it would continue to support the anti-terror operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines following the deadly Sultan Kudarat bombings.

“At the request of the government of the Philippines, US special operations forces continue to assist the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Mindanao through support that increases intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities,” US Embassy spokeswoman Molly Koscina said in a September 2 statement.

Suara said that in the past, the AFP has received technological support from US personnel such as drone and satellite intelligence which was evident during the five-month Marawi siege.

“The US-Duterte regime has sown terror across Mindanao. This tyrannical regime has worsened our woes by imposing Martial Law in Mindanao, death and destruction of Marawi, deceptive peace policy, skyrocketing prices of basic commodities, injustices and plunder of Moro resources. It is high time for the Bangsamoro to take a stand on these issues. The continuing oppression and exploitation against the Bangsamoro must end,” the group said.

Duterte on Abu Sayyaf: Bankrupt na, kurakot pa!

From Politiko (Sep 12): Duterte on Abu Sayyaf: Bankrupt na, kurakot pa!

In his speech before newly appointed government officials on Wednesday, President Rodrigo Duterte regarded the members of the bandit Abu Sayyaf Group, an al-Qaida-linked group, as “most bankrupt” and “corrupt.”

“Itong mga Abu Sayyaf who are with the ISIS. Ito ‘yung pinaka bankrupt na – it’s a bankrupt and a corrupt,” Duterte said.

The chief executive said he does not understand the ideology of the group.

“I don’t know what ideology. And it knows nothing except to kill and destroy. This is the long-term problem for everybody, all over the world,” he added.

The May 2017 militant siege in Marawi City was led by Maute and Abu Sayyaf group, who has pledged alleged to Islamic State. The five-month battle between the government troops and Islamic rebels claimed more than 1,000 lives.

19 NPA rebels surrender in Bukidnon

From the Manila Bulletin (Sep 12): 19 NPA rebels surrender in Bukidnon

CAMP BANCASI, Butuan City — Nineteen heavily armed members of the Communist New People’s Army Terrorists (CNTs) voluntarily gave themselves up to the Army’s 1st Special Forces Battalion (1st SFBn) in barangay Mampayag, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon province, military officials reported Wednesday.


The surrenderees were former members of the Guerilla Front 68 (GF 68) of the CPP-NPA North Central Mindanao Regional Committee (NCMRC) operating in Bukidnon and nearby provinces.

The 19 CNTs yielded 38 assorted firearms to Lt. Col. Sergio P. Macarandan, commanding officer of the 1st SFBn last week (Sept. 6).

 The command group of 1st SFBn immediately turned over the surrendered firearms to Bukidnon Police Provincial Office (PPO) for proper documentation and safekeeping.

The surrenderees are currently under debriefing while processing their papers for enrollment of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), a program of the government that will extend financial and livelihood assistance to rebel returnees.

Brig. General Eric C. Vinoya, commanding general of the Army’s 403rd Infantry (Peacemaker) Brigade, on Wednesday lauded the accomplishment of the 1st SFBn. “The surrender of these CNTs shows that we are on the winning condition—especially that Bukidnon has been conferred as ‘Conflict-Manageable and Ready for Further Development (CMRFD)’ province,” the 403rd “Peacemaker” Brigade commander said.

“As long as the local populace’s support and cooperation never cease, we are heading towards attaining long and lasting peace,” added Brig. Gen. Vinoya, in a statement.

Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Ronald C. Villanueva, commanding general of the Army’s Northeastern and Northern Mindanao Fourth Infantry (Diamond) Division (4th ID) on Wednesday urged the remaining CNTs who are still in the mountains to “come down now and avail themselves of the government’s peace and development program.”

“Our field troops are still open to accept our brothers who wanted to avail themselves of a peaceful and productive life,” the 4th ID chief added.

Duterte not interested with US firearm purchase

From the Philippine Update (Sep 13): Duterte not interested with US firearm purchase

The United States has reportedly agreed to resume a firearm sale to the Philippines but President Duterte might not take the offer anymore.

The President said he was not interested with the US firearm purchase since he has already given new pistols to almost all soldiers.

“Ngayon,‘yung last order natin ng Glock pistols, I was informed by Trust Trade na pumayag na raw because ‘yung dalawang senador pumirma na daw [On our last order for Glock pistols, I was informed by Trust Trade that they have agreed because the two senators have signed],” Duterte said over government television.

 “The fact that maybe they signed something to finalize the purchase. Ako naman hindi na ako interesado kasi medyo halos nabigyan ko na lahat sundalo,” he added.

Duterte said he was not aware that in the US, lawmakers could take part in the functions of the Executive branch. “But if you need a clearance to buy, that’s something new to us actually. Iyong ating sinusunod na Constitution which is very similar to their Constitution,” he added.

Duterte admitted that the government’s planned purchase of firearms from the US was “stymied” after some lawmakers blocked the deal. As a result, Duterte went to China and Russia to secure weapons, some of which were given free.

2 Indon fishermen abducted off Sabah

From the Mindanao Examiner (Sep 12): 2 Indon fishermen abducted off Sabah

Two masked gunmen abducted two Indonesian fishermen off Semporna town in Sabah despite a strict security and sea curfew imposed by Malaysian authorities following persistent threats posed by Abu Sayyaf militants.

Malaysia’s the Star Online reported Wednesday that two other fishermen managed to hide in one of the compartments of their boat. It said police were investigating whether the gunmen have links with the Abu Sayyaf or criminal groups from Tawi-Tawi province in southern Philippines which have carried out ransom kidnappings in the past in Sabah.

The attackers, armed with automatic rifles, were speaking in Tausug, a dialect commonly used in Tawi-Tawi and Sulu, according to the two fishermen, who identified their abducted companions as Usman Yunus, 35, and Samsul Sagunim, 40.

“Based on the account of the two fishermen who managed to flee, Omar said they heard the sound of a pump boat approaching their vessel as it was docking at the jetty. The two men went to hide themselves. And from a hole in the compartment, they saw two armed men in dark clothing boarding their boat.”

“When they got out of their hiding place, they discovered that their crew mates and the boat’s radio were missing. The armed men were said to have spoken in the Suluk dialect,” the report said.

Police said all four Indonesians had earlier gone fishing with 11 other fishermen near Pulau Gaya in the past three days. The 11 fishermen then headed to shore to deliver their catch. The abduction occurred just a day before an extended sea curfew is to end September 13 after four years.

Sabah extended its curfew covering three nautical miles off Tawau, Semporna, Kunak, Lahad Datu, Kinabatangan, Sandakan and Beluran – all near the border of Tawi-Tawi’s chain of islands.

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Ramli Din as saying that the decision to extend the curfew was made based on continuous threats from cross-border criminals, including from kidnap-for-ransom groups and the Abu Sayyaf. Ramli said police intelligence indicated that kidnap-for-ransom groups and Abu Sayyaf militants were still trying to commit cross-border crimes.

The curfew was implemented on July 19, 2014, following a series of kidnappings which saw the beheading of Sarawakian Bernard Then Ted Fed and the killing of several others, including a policeman and tourists.

In August, a group of gunmen also attempted to abduct crew members of a tugboat in Sabah. At least 10 armed men were involved in the failed abduction near Lahad Datu’s Tambisan area after crew members locked themselves in a room. The armed men managed to sneak into Sabah and boarded the tug boat on the evening of August 9.

Crew members quickly radioed for help and patrolling members of the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) responded immediately and forced the gunmen to escape. Esscom commander Datuk Hazani Ghazali said the crewmen were ferrying palm oil from Felda Sabahat in Tengku and on their way to Kuantan when the gunmen on motorboat came alongside their boat in Tambisan waters near the Tawi-Tawi chain of islands.

Malaysia and Indonesia have a border patrol agreement with the Philippines and share regular intelligence and conduct trilateral maritime patrols to prevent piracy and terrorism, including ransom kidnappings of sailors in the maritime borders.

The military previously said that security is tight in the border to prevent Abu Sayyaf kidnappings inside Sabah or in the waters of Tawi-Tawi which is frequented by cargo boats. The Abu Sayyaf is still holding several foreign hostages in the restive southern region.

Military forces in Mindanao vow to stay loyal to Constitution

From the Mindanao Examiner (Sep 13): Military forces in Mindanao vow to stay loyal to Constitution

Military forces in southern Philippines has on Wednesday assured citizens that it will remain loyal to the Constitution and will follow the chain of command after security leaders said some sectors were trying to drag the military into the political fray.

Army Lt. Col. Ezra Balagtey, a spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command based in Davao City, hometown of President Rodrigo Duterte, said they are solid and undivided.

“We shall remain loyal to the Constitution and chain of command amidst the political turmoil. While there are prevailing issues which some sectors are trying to drag the military into the fray, Eastern Mindanao Command, together with its subordinate units, remains committed and focused in our task to secure our communities from terrorist and other lawless elements, and allow no one to take advantage of the situation to carry out their ill-intentions,” he said.

The statement came out following Duterte’s challenge to soldiers sympathetic to Senator Antonio Trillanes, to join the former coupist and leader of the rightist Magdalo Group, after the President revoked the politician’s amnesty granted by then President Benigno Aquino, now an opposition leader.

Trillanes said he has supporters in the military. But Duterte accused Trillanes of conspiring with communist rebels and opposition figures of plotting to overthrow him, an allegation the senator denied. Trillanes has also accused Duterte as supporter of the New People’s Army and blamed him for releasing many communist rebel leaders from prison to join the peace talks which eventually collapsed.

Balagtey said while they recognize soldiers have their own view and opinion, “rest assured that the Eastern Mindanao Command, and the whole Armed Forces of the Philippines, for that matter, remains solid, professional, and focused on our mission to secure our communities, facilitate the delivery of services to our people, and address threats to our peace and security,” he said.

The Eastern Mindanao Command – under Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. – is one of two major military headquarters in southern Philippines and has control over half of the region’s army, navy and air force.

The other is Western Mindanao Command which is in Zamboanga City and under the leadership of Lt. Gen. Arnel dela Vega. It also follows the chain of command and strongly adheres to the military’s “Transformation Roadmap” – the Armed Forces’ guide towards organizational change and of better service to the country, according to its spokesman, Lt. Col. Gerry Besana.

“The Constitution bestows upon the Armed Forces of the Philippines the sacred mandate of being protector of the people and the state. Throughout the years, the Armed Forces have remained steadfast in fulfilling its mandate,” he said.

The Transformation Roadmap aims to transform the Armed Forces into a strong and credible institution built on good governance. It serves as the AFP’s strategy in pursuing reform initiatives within the framework of Security Sector Reform and geared towards two strategic priorities – capability development and professionalization of all ranks – for better and stronger Armed Forces.

Armed Forces’ Chief of Staff, Gen. Carlito Galvez has earlier warned troops not to meddle or take part in partisan politics, saying, “Ourloyalty is to the Constitution. I command the troops to adhere to the rule of law and always obey the chain of command.”

Galvez said those who violate his order “will be dealt with severely and personnel who will get involved will be immediately relieved from their posts and investigated.”

Madrigal, Dela Vega and Galvez are all veterans, who fought rebel forces and terrorists in the troubled region of Mindanao. Madrigal was former commander of the 4th Infantry Division in Cagayan de Oro City in northern Mindanao; Dela Vega was previously the commander of the 6th Infantry Division in Maguindanao province in central Mindanao where he battled Islamic militants and communist insurgents, while Galvez headed the Western Mindanao Command and led security forces in battling Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf fighters who occupied Marawi City in Lanao del Sur province last year, but he also stayed long in Basilan province to fight the Abu Sayyaf and pro-ISIS militants.

Suspected NPA rebels killed in CamSur clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 12): Suspected NPA rebels killed in CamSur clash

At least two suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels were killed Tuesday in a clash with government troops in Barangay Malabog, in Caramoan town, Camarines Sur province, a military report said.

The slain rebels have yet to be identified, according to Army Capt. Joash Pramis, 9th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office chief.

Pramis said a patrol of soldiers were on combat operation at about 12:40 p.m. when they chanced upon a 10-man NPA group at the hinterland village.

The clash resulted in the death of two rebels and the recovery of a Carbine rifle.

Soldiers are still pursuing the rebels by scouring mountainous areas where they could have fled.

Israeli arms factory to set-up plant in PH

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 12): Israeli arms factory to set-up plant in PH

Silver Shadow Advance Security System CEO Amos Golan (left) and RIC Pres. Augusto Camacho sign a Letter of Intent with Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez (center) as witness.
A leading arms manufacturer in Israel is set to put up a plant in the Philippines.

Rayo Illuminar Corp., (RIC) Chairman Salvador Zamora, in an interview Wednesday, said he expects Amos Golan of Israel’s Silver Shadow Advance Security Systems Ltd., (SSASS) to be in the Philippines this month to finalize their partnership with the end in view of starting the installations of vital apparatus of the manufacturing and assembly plant that will be operational by 2019.

SSASS and RIC had a series of exploratory meetings prior to President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent state visit, and are eyeing Limay, Bataan as among the identified prospective areas for the manufacturing plant.

The two companies entered into a Memorandum of Undertaking wherein the Israeli company committed to infuse an initial investment of USD50-million. SSASS and RIC will initially manufacture and assemble firearms and ammunitions with SSASS also committing to train and then employ at least 160 personnel.

During the President Duterte’s Israel visit, a ceremonial signing of Letter of Intent by SSASS and its ranking officials with Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez were among the significant events held.

A demonstration of the firefight capability of varied types of firearms under the brand name Gilboa followed that was witnessed by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

Westmincom alerts border forces as gunmen seize 2 in Malaysia

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 12): Westmincom alerts border forces as gunmen seize 2 in Malaysia

The Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) on Wednesday alerted its forces along the country’s border with Malaysia to be on the lookout for gunmen on board watercraft.

This came as two gunmen reportedly abducted two Indonesians aboard a fishing boat, shortly after it docked at the Pulau Gaya jetty near Semporna, Malaysia, between Tuesday midnight and 1 a.m. Wednesday.

The Malaysian authorities identified the kidnap victims as Samsul Sagunim, 40, and Usman Yunus, 35. Two of their companions managed to escape by hiding in one of the boat’s compartments.

The Malaysian police is investigating whether the two gunmen are linked to the Sulu-based Abu Sayyaf Group or to criminal groups from southern Philippines known to extort from owners of fishing boats.

“We received advance information from our Malaysia counterpart about the incident. We have alerted the forces along the border (of the Philippines and Malaysia),” said Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, Westmincom information officer.

Besana added they are still waiting for updates from the troops in the field since it was still unknown where the gunmen were headed.

He said it could be a speculation that the suspects are Tausug-speaking as the details about the incident are still incomplete although the victims have been identified.

The incident occurred after the four Indonesians had gone fishing, along with 11 other fishermen, off Pulau Gaya three days ago.

They then headed to shore to deliver their catch.

No action vs. Trillanes sans arrest warrant: DND chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 12): No action vs. Trillanes sans arrest warrant: DND chief

The military will not act against Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV unless an arrest warrant is issued by the courts.

"No warrant, no arrest," Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a message to reporters Wednesday.

In a separate statement, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr. said he will comply with the Supreme Court (SC) ruling on the petition of Trillanes.

"Finally, the AFP takes cognizance of the recent decision of the Supreme Court in Re Petition of Sen. Trillanes IV. I will defer comments on the matter as I, being one among the named respondents in the case, was directed to file comment within 10 days from notice," Galvez said.

He also stressed that the country's military remains loyal to the Consitution and to the chain of command.

"I recommit to the nation the unity and firm resolve of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for an unflinching loyalty to the Constitution and the duly constituted authorities," the AFP said.

"I assure our people, and there is no reason to doubt, that the 145,000-strong soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines of the AFP are solidly behind the chain-of-command. I am confident that the men and women of the AFP will decline firmly any and all attempts to create a wedge in the AFP. And they will do so more for the reason of their oath than it is for fear of severe consequences of relief from post, investigation, and steep penalties under the Military Justice system," he added.

On Tuesday, the High Court denied Trillanes' petition seeking the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) against President Rodrigo Duterte's Proclamation No. 572, which declared the amnesty granted to him as void ab initio.

"Thus, there is no extreme and urgent necessity for the Court to issue an injunctive relief, considering that the respondents have acknowledged Senator Trillanes' right to due process," the SC said.

It also stressed that it is up to the trial courts to determine the facts of the cases against Trillanes.

"Hence, it is appropriate that the Makati RTCs (Regional Trial Courts) should be given leeway in exercising their concurrent jurisdiction to hear and resolve the pleadings/motions filed by the parties as regards the legality of Proclamation 572," it added.

The DOJ has filed separate motions before Makati RTC Branches 148 and 150, asking that arrest warrants and hold departure orders (HDO) be issued against Trillanes.

Branch 148 is handling the coup d’etat case against Trillanes concerning the Oakwood mutiny, while Branch 150 is handling the rebellion case against the senator over the Manila Peninsula siege.

Branch 148 Judge Andres Soriano and Branch 150 Judge Elmo Alameda have set separate hearings on the DOJ's motion on Thursday and Friday, respectively.

Duterte’s oust dare to military an ‘expression of confidence’

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 12): Duterte’s oust dare to military an ‘expression of confidence’

President Rodrigo Duterte’s challenge to the military to oust him was an expression of confidence that Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and other groups will not get support from the soldiers, Malacañang said Wednesday.

“Ang konteksto talaga ng President is kung gusto nyo talagang mag-alsa, mag-alsa na kayo para matapos na. Ibig sabihin kampante ang Presidente na wala naman suporta sa hanay ng military para patalsikin sya (The proper context of the President is if you want to oust me, then oust me so that it will be over. It means the President is confident that there would be no support from the military to unseat him),” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Palace press briefing.

Roque, however, said Duterte has clarified that he is not clinging to the position he won overwhelmingly in the 2016 elections.

"Chinallenge niya dahil sigurado naman siya na walang suporta. Pero sinasabi niya na ako'y hindi kapit tuko. Kung gusto nyo, gawin nyo (He challenged them because he's sure there would be no support. But he's also saying he is not clinging to his post. If they want to, then do it),” he said.

During last Tuesday’s televised one-on-one interview with Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, Duterte said Trillanes’ Magdalo group, Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Maria Sison, and other opposition groups are in a “loose conspiracy” to overthrow his government.

“They have combined and we have the evidence and we have the conversation provided by a foreign country sympathetic to us,” Duterte said.

The President then dared the soldiers to join Trillanes if they think the senator, a former Navy officer known for his failed coup attempts against former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, can do better in running the country.

“I urge you to go to Trillanes. If you want another president, fine,” Duterte said.

The salaries of the soldiers and policemen have been doubled under the Duterte administration.

When asked to expound on Duterte’s intelligence report from a “sympathetic” foreign country, Roque said he has no idea if sharing information is a regular thing.

“What I do know is sharing intel is precisely intended to provide you information to avoid eventualities,” said the international law expert.

Roque clarified that the sharing of intelligence reports is “recognized as the function of diplomatic nations.”

“That’s the nature of diplomatic relations nowadays,” he said.

He said the Philippines has actually benefited from sharing information from the United States about terrorists.

Duterte has said the “sympathetic” nation, which he did not identify, has granted his request to declassify the conversation for it to be shown to everyone “maybe any day now.”