Sunday, October 20, 2019

Kalinaw News: 5th ID Enlists 317 new breed of Startroopers

Posted to Kalinaw News (Oct 20, 2019): 5th ID Enlists 317 new breed of Startroopers

CAMP MELCHOR F DELA CRUZ, Gamu Isabela- The 5th Infantry (Star) Division enlisted 317 new breed of Startroopers into the regular force after the graduation rites of Candidate Soldier Course (CSC) Classes 580 & 581-2019 at 5th Division Training School, Camp Melchor F Dela Cruz, Upi, Gamu Isabela on October 18, 2019.

The members of the two graduating Classes: CSC Cl 580-2019 “MAGLIYAB” which means “Magsama-samang Lilingkod Yakap ang Bayan”; and CSC Cl 581-2019 “ALIBTAK” which stands for “Alagad ng Lahing Ibinigkis ng Tapang at Kagitingan” had undergone four months of rigid training to test their physical and mental stability while transforming them from carefree civilians to fine grown military men. The graduating classes were composed of twenty-one (21) Board passers, one-hundred-fifty (150) college graduates, thirty two (32) college level and fifty four (54) high school graduates with special skills. Moreover, majority of the graduates came from the different municipalities of Isabela, Cagayan and Kalinga.

Among the members of the CSC Class 580-2019, the graduates who bested in the academic and non-academic requirements of their course were CS Major John A Ballesteros, 23 y/o, from Dicamay 1, Jones Isabela, garnering an average of 94.89% (Top 1); CS Jervis F Pagulayan of Sta. Maria Cabisera Ilagan, Isabela, with an average of 94.84% (Top 2); and CS Harold A Gayyaman of Sadangga Mt. Province with an average of 94.55% (Top 3). CS Jan Christopher I Illustrado also received the Physical Fitness Proficiency Test Award for obtaining the highest average of 99%.

On the other hand, CS James D Toribio, an NC II holder topped the CSC Class 581-2019, with a general average score of 92.69% from all the requirements of the course and also a recipient of the Physical Fitness Proficiency Test Award with an average of 97. 50%. CS Ronvan G Bangibang (92.16%) of Brgy. Malucsad, Pasil, Kalinga and CS Rolan L Awing (91.69%) of Brgy Balawag, Tabuk, City Kalinga landed second and third respectively.

Major General Pablo M Lorenzo Commander, 5ID challenged the new graduates as they start their military journey. He said that they must begin their tasks thoughtfully, continue it diligently, and finish it thoroughly where every step from the beginning to the conclusion must have a commitment to excellence. He also emphasized that competence, skill, intelligence are all important attributes in the service but there is one thing greater than the rest and that is faith. The strength that is derived from the communication with God sustains every soldier through times of adversity.

Furthermore he dedicated his message to the proud parents who gave their all support for their children to be of service to our fellow Filipino people. He also asked for support from the families saying “Our campaign is to sustain peace and development in the Cordillera and in Cagayan Valley. Help us seek out the detractors of peace and enlighten them that our government is waithing for them if they lay their arms and join the mainstream of society”.

Consequently, Most Reverent, Prudencio P Andaya the Apostolic Vicariate of Tabuk City, Kalinga and Chairman of 5ID MSAB graced the activity as the Guest of Honor and Speaker.In his message, Bishop Andaya commended the graduates and also emphasized that no matter where they may be assigned, they should never forget to pray and ask guidance from God, Almighty.

“I would like to congratulate these strong young men for the courage and determination to pass the challenges and struggles they went through for the rest of their trainings. You are now a member of the professional Armed Forces. We are expecting you to carry the discipline and apply the core values that you acquired during your training. Take the warrior ethos and be ready to serve and protect the freedom of our people. Put your trust in God, take him as your refuge. His presence alone is enough to accompany you in times of weaknesses and difficulties”, Rev. Andaya concluded.

The activity culminated with a ceremonial entrustment of firearms that symbolizes the magnitude of the responsibility, duty and authority rested upon the soldiers in protecting the people and securing the land. The new breed of soldiers will be deployed to the different areas of operation of the 5ID to help maintain its mission.

Division Public Affairs Office 5th Infantry Division Philippine Army
Chief/ Spokesperson, 5th Infantry Division PA
Gamu, Isabela

[Kalinaw News is the official online source of information on the pursuit for peace by the Philippine Army. It provides information on the activities of Army Units nationwide in the performance of their duty of Serving the People and Securing the Land. This website is a property of the Civil-Military Operations Regiment, Philippine Army located at Lawton Avenue, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.
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Massive reshuffling shakes PNP after Albayalde controversy

From Rappler (Oct 20, 2019): Massive reshuffling shakes PNP after Albayalde controversy

(UPDATED) At least 20 generals and 2 colonels are moved to new posts just days after the Philippine National Police got a scolding from President Rodrigo Duterte over the 'ninja cops' controversy

COMMAND CONFERENCE. Lieutenant General Archie Francisco Gamboa leads a meeting of the Philippine National Police's top officials on October 15, 2019, after General Oscar Albayalde resigned. Photo from PNP

(UPDATED) – Top officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP) were uprooted from their posts and given new assignments days after top cop General Oscar Albayalde resigned from his post over the "ninja cops" controversy, Rappler learned on Sunday, October 20.

Police sources told Rappler that the reshuffling was prompted by a scolding from President Rodrigo Duterte to the PNP's top brass during a command conference last Tuesday, October 15, over mounting allegations against Albayalde – an appointee outside Duterte's inner Davao City circle whose career ended in disappointment.

According to reassignment orders obtained by Rappler, the following police officials were reassigned to new posts effective Sunday:
  1. Manila Police District (MPD) chief Brigadier General Vicente Danao is new Calabarzon police chief
  2. Former Eastern Police District chief Brigadier General Bernabe Balba is new MPD chief
  3. Calabarzon police chief Brigadier General Edward Carranza is new chief of the PNP Logistics Support Service
  4. Central Luzon police chief Brigadier General Joel Coronel is new chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG)
  5. CIDG chief Major General Amador Corpus is new Human Resource and Doctrine Development chief
  6. Integrity Monitoring and Enforcement Group or IMEG chief Colonel Romeo Caramat is new PNP Drug Enforcement Group (DEG) chief
  7. Colonel Ronald Lee is new IMEG chief
  8. DEG chief Brigadier General Albert Ferro is reassigned to the Bicol Police Regional Office as deputy chief for administration
  9. Eastern Visayas police chief Brigadier General Dionardo Carlos is new Highway Patrol Group (HPG) chief
  10. HPG chief Eliseo Cruz is reassigned to the CIDG as deputy chief
  11. Mimaropa police chief Brigadier General Tomas Apolinario is reassigned to the Directorate for Intelligence as deputy chief
  12. Police Security and Protection Group (PSPG) chief Brigadier General Filmore Escobal is new Davao Region police chief
  13. Bicol police chief Brigadier General Arnel Escobal is new Aviation Security Group chief
  14. Major General Mariel Magaway is new chief of the Directorate for Intelligence
  15. Brigadier General Anthony Alcañeses is new Bicol police chief
  16. Brigadier General Ferdinand Divina is new Eastern Visayas police chief
  17. Brigadier General Angelito Casimiro is new Cagayan Valley police chief
  18. Brigadier General Leonardo Cesneros is new Central Luzon police chief
  19. Brigadier General Nicerio Obaob is new Mimaropa police chief
  20. Brigadier General Joselito Daniel is new Police Community Affairs and Development Group chief
  21. Brigadier General Marcelo Morales is new PSPG chief
  22. Brigadier General Rhodel Sermonia is new deputy director of the Directorate for Police Community Relations
In total, there are 20 generals and 2 colonels reassigned, but more reassignments are expected as the PNP continues its bid to regain public trust.

This level of reshuffling is unprecedented in the Duterte administration, considering even the allegations of human rights violations in the anti-drug campaign. The massive movement of officials shows the level of impact the "ninja cops" controversy has had on the PNP.

In a statement confirming the reassignments, PNP spokesman Brigadier General Bernard Banac said the movements were decided by the PNP Senior Officers Placement and Promotion Board then approved by officer-in-charge Lieutenant General Archie Francisco Gamboa.

Mindanao youth leaders debunk support of communists terrorists to IPs

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 20, 2019): Mindanao youth leaders debunk support of communists terrorists to IPs

11 Mindanao Indigenous People youth leaders debunk Friday the alleged support of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army to their tribes. (William L. Beltran/PIA 3)

11 Mindanao Indigenous People (IP) youth leaders debunked Friday the alleged support of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) to their tribes.

“Nandito po kami para sabihin kung ano ang tunay na nangyayari sa Mindanao. Dahil po part sa aming kultura na kung saan po dinadala ang pangalan namin na hindi maganda, yung sinisiraan kailangan naming puntahan at ayusin. Kultura po namin yun. Kaya po kami pumunta ng Amerika, Europa dahil po sa mga naririnig naming mga balita na yung Martial Law nakaapekto sa mga IPs sa Mindanao which is hindi naman totoo yun. Yung sinusunog daw ng mga sundalo yung mga eskwelahan. Pero kung tatanungin po niyo yung mga totoong nandoon, yung mga doon nakatira wala naman silang nakitang ganoong nangyayari. In fact, yung mga CPP-NPA yung mga nagsusunog ng mga paaralan at nagbobomba ng mga sundalo na nagpapatrolya, (We are here to tell you what is really happening in Mindanao as it is part of our culture that whenever our tribe is dragged on a bad light, we need to go and fix it. That is the reason we went to the United States, Europe because of the news we hear that Martial Law affected the IPs in Mindanao which is not true. That soldiers allegedly burn schools. But if you ask those who are really there, those did not happen. In fact, it is the CPP-NPA who burn schools and bomb patrolling soldiers,” Bae Anna Jessa Mae Crisostomo of the Ubo Manobo tribe said during the Ugnayang Pangkapayapaan, Ugnayang Pangkaunlaran Central Luzon media forum organized by the Philippine Air Force (PAF).

The IP youth leaders roadshow in the United States and Europe was billed as “Breaking the Silence and Telling the Truth” because their tribes have been silent for 50 years but are now coming out because they can no longer stand the atrocities of the CPP-NPA.

They carried three stories. First is the Story of Struggle which covers the 17 major atrocities committed by the CPP-NPA to Indigenous Cultural Communities.

These atrocities include 1) For supplanting traditional leaders and replacing them with the revolutionary ones as the CNN Central Task for the IPs; 2) For murdering almost a thousand IP leaders from the 1980s to present just because they don’t follow what the NPA wanted; 3) For making the ancestral domain as their guerilla base which caught IPs in the crossfire; 4) For collecting revolutionary taxes from the farm produce, livestock and other forms of livelihood; 5) For setting up informal schools for elementary and secondary education in the different ancestral domain in Mindanao. They use the schools to radicalize children by teaching communism and how to become armed fighters; 6) For agitating and deceiving several IP leaders and members with false promises by encouraging them to leave their ancestral domain to go to the town centers or cities.; 7) For bringing bright young leaders to tertiary institutions as scholars. These schools are managed by communist organizations thus radicalizing their minds; 8) For making some IP leaders as head of Organs of Political Power Revolutionary Justice System (Kangaroo Court) that hand down judgment to fellow IP leaders and members that will be killed; 9) For converting some IP communities as prison/confinement area of IPs; and 10) For subverting the name “Bagani” whose main purpose is protect the IPs but used it as a name of NPA units to kill IPs and attack government security forces.

Also, 11) For occupying the ancestral domain or private communal property, which the government recognizes, without their permission; 12) For removing the Right of Suffrage by forcing them to support those who paid the CPP-NPA with the Permit to Campaign and/or Permit to Win; 13) For collecting revolutionary taxes from mining and logging companies or similar businesses in the ancestral domain more than what the IPs should receive as royalty; 14) For burning construction equipment in the ancestral domain thereby delaying and even stopping significant infrastructure projects of the government thus preventing the delivery of goods and services to far flung communities; 15) For organizing the IPs at Mindanao, Regional and Provincial levels through deceit and lies to support the National Democratic Front, BAYAN and the five Regional Party Committees all over Mindanao; 16) For using the IPs in ruining the image of the Philippine government in the eyes of the world by orchestrating international solidarity works and projecting lies contrary to the real situation and issues of the country; and 17) The communist terrorist recruitment and programs on IP youth that result to sexual exploitation.

“Next, ay Story of Deception. Alam ko po na di lang kami yung biktima. Di lang po kami yung nalinlang. Pati po rito. Kahit sa rural man o urban area meron din mga nabiktima (Next is the Story of Deception. We know that we are not the only victims. Even here. Whether rural or urban they have victims,” Crisostomo added.

And lastly, the Story of Assertion. Assertion of IP rights that need to be known and fight for.

Areas they visited in the United States include New York particularly the United Nations (UN), Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington DC.

For Europe, they visited Rome, Italy to talk to funding institutions there as the CPP-NPA, through their front non-governmental organizations, seek projects that are supposed to be for the welfare of IPs. The group likewise went to Geneva, Switzerland to attend the 42nd session of UN Human Rights Council.

They also talked to think tank groups and members of the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium. Other areas visited include Berlin and Cologne, Germany and Paris, France.

In the Philippines, Pampanga was their second stop after Cebu. They are scheduled to attend a similar media forum by PAF in Isabela. (WLB-PIA 3)

75th Leyte Gulf Landings honor World War II heroes

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 20, 2019): 75th Leyte Gulf Landings honor World War II heroes

WORLD WAR II HEROES. Some of the surviving World War II Filipino veterans who attended the 75th Leyte Gulf Landings commemoration at the MacArthur Landing Memorial Park in Palo, Leyte on Sunday (Oct. 20, 2019). The event highlighted the gallantry of World War II heroes that led to the liberation of the Philippines from the three-year Japanese occupation. (Photo courtesy of Jake Tatoy)

PALO, Leyte -- The 75th Leyte Gulf Landings commemoration on Sunday highlighted the gallantry of World War II heroes that led to the liberation of the Philippines from the three-year Japanese occupation.

In a low-key celebration at MacArthur Landing Memorial Park in this town, officials honored the bravery of Filipino guerrilla fighters and Allied Forces.

US Embassy Chargé D' Affaires John Law called for reflection and gratitude for the 15,000 soldiers who sacrificed their lives during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

“Those who fought paid the dreadful price for us to regain freedom and restore peace. It’s the debt that we can only pay by remembering as we do today,” Law said.

Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Stephen James Robinson thanked the Philippines for acknowledging Australia’s role in the Liberation of Leyte with the participation of 4,000 Australian soldiers.

“Your commitment and valor serve as a timeless example to us all. The battle reminds us to be ready to work whenever and wherever duty calls,” Robinson said.

Yasushi Yamamoto, Chargé D' Affaires of Japan Embassy in the Philippines, condoled with family members whose forefathers perished during the war.

“Since the war ended, Japan has consistently valued peace. My country has been dedicated to promoting peace and prosperity in Asia. Japan is determined to continue to make greater contributions to that end,” Yamamoto said.

Since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed the post, there are already seven summit meetings held between Philippine and Japan. The past four years are considered as the “golden age of strategic partnership”, according to the Japanese official.

National Security Adviser Hormogenes Esperon described the commemoration as truly sentimental as the country remembers the landing of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, commencing the Battle of Leyte, defeating the Japanese Imperial Army.

“Let us take this occasion to be grateful for the gallantry of troops. May their sacrifices inspire us to be decisive in confronting the challenges that we may face,” Esperon said.

Leyte Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla urged Leyteños to always remember the stories of Leyte Gulf Landings as part of their duty to keep alive the valor of World War II heroes.

“Our veterans both the departed and the living deserve to be recognized for their heroism in times of war so that we may all live,” Petilla said.

Some of the 105 surviving veterans and sons and daughters of guerrilla fighters attended the event.

It was on Oct. 20, 1944 when Gen. Douglas MacArthur, together with President Sergio Osmeña and Gen. Carlos P. Romulo, again set foot on Philippine soil, their first after they left Corregidor in 1942.

Their arrival started a battle that spanned 100,000 square miles of sea; and was fought for three days, from Oct. 23 to 25, 1944, during the invasion of Leyte by the Allied forces.

The battle signaled the fulfillment of Gen. Douglas MacArthur's famous words, “I shall return,” after going to Australia to muster support from the Allied forces in the quest to liberate the Philippines from Japanese occupation.

Gamboa gets Napolcom nod for major PNP revamp

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 20, 2019): Gamboa gets Napolcom nod for major PNP revamp

Philippine National Police (PNP) officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Archie Francisco Gamboa has implemented a major revamp in the PNP after getting a go signal from the National Police Commission (Napolcom).

As OIC, Gamboa has limited power but the Napolcom, through a resolution, granted his request to reshuffle key positions in view of the retirement of some senior police officers.

“The following personnel are relieved from present assignment and reassigned to units effective October 20,” the document distributed to the media on Sunday read.

The document was signed by Maj. Gen. Lyndon Cubos, director for Personnel and Records Management, affecting key positions at the National Headquarters down to the regional level.

Maj. Gen. Amador Corpuz, former director of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), was named new Director for Directorate Human Resource and Doctrine Development (DHRDD).

Brig. Gen. Joel Napoleon Coronel, former acting Regional Director (RD) of Police Regional Office (PRO) Region 3, replaced Corpuz as acting CIDG director, while Brig. Gen. Leonardo Cesneros will be the OIC of PRO-3 while former DHRDD director, Maj. Gen Mariel Magaway has been designated as Director for Intelligence (DI).

Brig. Gen. Tomas Apolinario, meanwhile, was replaced by Brig. Gen. Nicerio Obaob as acting regional director of PRO-Region 4B (Mimaropa). Obaob was former head of PRO-5 (Bicol Region)

The PRO-8 (Eastern Visayas) also has new RD after Brig. Gen. Ferdinand Divina replaced Brig. Gen. Dionardo Carlos who was appointed as acting director of High Patrol Group (HPG), replacing Brig. Gen. Eliseo Cruz who will be assigned at the CIDG.

Brig. Gen. Albert Ignatius Ferro, director of Drug Enforcement Group (DEG), will now be the acting Regional Director of PRO-5, and he will be replaced by Col. Romeo Caramat, former head of the Integrity Monitoring and Enforcement Group (IMEG).

Col. Ronald Oliver Lee from PRO-7 (Central Visayas) will be the new IMEG chief.

CIDG deputy director, Brig. Gen. Bernabe Balba will be the new district director of Manila Police District (MPD), replacing Brig. Gen. Vincent Danao who is now head of PRO 4-A (Calabarzon).

Danao replaced Brig. Gen. Edward Carranza who replaced Brig. Gen. Abellera Casimiro as Director of Logistics Support Service (LSS). Casimiro is now acting RD of PRO-2 (Cagayan Valley).

Brig. Gen. Filmore Escobal, former director of Police Security Protection Group (PSPG) will be acting RD of PRO-11 (Davao Region) while Brig. Gen. Marcelo Morales from PRO 11 will take over the post of Escobal as Acting Director of PSPG.

Brig. Gen. Anthony Alcaneses, former director of Aviation Security Group (AVSEGROUP), will be the acting Regional Director of PRO-5 while Brig. Gen. Arnel Escobal will be assigned as acting Director of AVSEGROUP.

Brig. Gen Joselito Daniel, Deputy Director of Police Community Relations, will be the acting director of Police Community Affairs and Development Group (PCADG), replacing Brig. Gen Rhodel Sermonia who will take Daniel’s post.

Gamboa also approved the movements based on the endorsement of the PNP Senior Officers Placement and Promotion Board.

N. Samar jail escapee rearrested in Calbayog City

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 20, 2019): N. Samar jail escapee rearrested in Calbayog City

RECAPTURED. Aljon Cardenas handcuffed inside the Calbayog City police station in Samar. Policemen nabbed Cardenas Sunday, (Oct. 20, 2019), three days after his escape from Northern Samar sub-provincial jail. (Photo courtesy of Philippine National Police)

The Philippine National Police (PNP) in Samar province recaptured on Sunday a member of the New People’s Army (NPA) three days after he escaped from the sub-provincial jail in Allen, Northern Samar.

The PNP Samar provincial office reported on its Facebook page that Aljon Cardenas was rearrested around 12:15 p.m. at his residence in Dawo village, Calbayog City. He is now under the custody of Calbayog police station.

Cardenas, 19, broke out of jail by climbing the six-meter concrete perimeter wall around 8 p.m. on October 17.

He was one of the 50 NPA rebels who attacked the Victoria, Northern Samar municipal police station on March 28, 2019. The three-hour gun battle killed three rebels while four were arrested, including Cardenas.

Only two of the 15 police officers on duty were slightly injured after successfully defending their unit. Cardenas has been charged with illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.

On Friday, PNP Region 8 director, Brig. Gen. Dionardo Carlos expressed disappointment over Cardenas' escape as he promised to strengthen dragnet operation to recapture one of the suspects behind the police station attack.

Cops collar escaped NPA rebel in Northern Samar

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 20, 2019): Cops collar escaped NPA rebel in Northern Samar

A confessed member of the New People’s Army who escaped from the Allen Sub-Provincial Jail on Thursday was rearrested by the police on Sunday, Oct. 20.

Aljun Cardenas, 18, was found hiding in his house in Barangay Dawo Oquendo District, Calbayog City,
according to Col. Reynaldo dela Cruz, director of the Northern Samar Police Provincial Office.

The Calbayog City police will return Cardenas to the Allen Sub-Provincial Jail where he will be detained pending resolution of the charges for attempted homicide and illegal possession of firearms.

“They [Allen jail officers] assured us that Cardenas won’t be able to escape again,” Dela Cruz told the Inquirer.

Cardenas reportedly escaped by climbing the water tank beside the concrete fence at the back of the jail.

Cardenas was first captured by police officers during the foiled siege of the Victoria Municipal Police Station last March 28.

Army general condemns NPA recruitment of ‘child-warriors’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 20, 2019): Army general condemns NPA recruitment of ‘child-warriors’

Brig. Gen. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr., commander of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, which covers the Southern Tagalog and Mimaropa regions, strongly condemned the alleged recruitment of “child-warriors” by the communist New People’s Army (NPA).

In a report on Sunday, Capt. Jayrald Ternio, head of the public affairs office of the 2nd ID, disclosed said three minors, one them a 17-year old girl, were among the 26 NPA rebels that surrendered to the government this week.

“We condemn in the strongest sense the NPAs’ evil act of violating our children’s innocence,” Burgos said.

According to him, “there are written and unwritten rules in warfare” that protect women and children in armed conflict.

“No form of explanation will justify this dastardly act of putting Filipino minors in harm’s way,” Burgos said.

Quoting the admission of the girl surrenderer, Ternio said: “She was forced by the rebels to join their ranks after she was forbidden to leave a terrorist camp when she accompanied her friend in an exposure.”

There were no means, however, to immediately verify the claims of the military and the narrative of the rebel returnees.

The supposed child-warriors were brought to the attention of the Department of Social Welfare and Development for proper disposition and professional attention, Ternio said.

“So that the victims may quickly recover from the physical and psychological trauma that they suffered after being forced to carry arms despite their innocence,” he said.

Ternio said the names of the minors were being withheld not only to protect their privacy but also their security from possible NPA retribution.

Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, commander of the Armed Forces Southern Luzon Command, attributed the series of surrenders by NPA rebels to the recent activation of Quezon’s provincial task force to end the local communist armed conflict.

On Wednesday and Thursday, 26 former communist fighters — most of them Dumagat tribe members —operating in Quezon, Rizal and Laguna provinces surrendered to the police and military representatives in General Nakar town in Quezon.

The rebel returnees also surrendered 14 firearms and bomb-making materials.

Those who surrendered will enjoy the benefits of the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program or E-Clip, which offers livelihood financing, scholarships, housing and free legal assistance.

Factors and forces that led to the Marawi debacle

Posted to ABS-CBN (Oct 20, 2019): Factors and forces that led to the Marawi debacle (By Criselda Yabes, VERA Files)

(The following article is an excerpt from a case study written by the author for the project, “Violence, Human Rights, and Democracy in the Philippines.” The project is a joint undertaking by the Third World Studies Center, College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of the Philippines Diliman and the Conflict Research Group, Department of Conflict and Development Studies, Ghent University).

The grand mosque in Marawi. VERA Files photo by Johnna Villaviray-Giolagon

The battle of Marawi in 2017, in the heart of the Islamic city in Lanao del Sur province, deviated into violent extremism that opened more fears for the future in what was an undertaking by mostly a generation of millennial fighters.

The siege that lasted five months, from May to October, was unprecedented in magnitude, challenging the military in doctrine and tactics, and prompting daily sorties of air strikes that reduced Marawi to a state of destruction.

It was unbelievable that two principal brothers of a family attached to the political and business elite of the Maranaos – the Muslim ethnic tribe of Lanao del Sur – had raised the stakes of Islamism beyond the call for autonomy in a fractured land.

Butig - the seedbed

It was in the town of Butig, where events leading up to the battle in Marawi, inspired a vision of creating an Islamic state. The sight of poverty recedes out to the meadow in the wide green space, turning into forest trails that lead to a well-hidden encampment – an ideal spot to hide and train a rebel army. It was there where smaller camps around the border and into the neighboring Maguindanao province that the Jemaah Islamiyah trained in their cadetship of a clandestine military school.

It was in Butig where they trained with neophyte fighters from Indonesia and Malaysia whose ties with Filipino rebels formed – over a period of time in scattered shifts of their ideologies – a certain kinship. They developed smaller secret cells for trainings that broke up after the military campaign in 2000. Those who stayed in Butig came into contact, eventually, with the Maute brothers whose family was a mainstay in the town politics and linked to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as well.

When the MILF abandoned Camp Darul Iman in Butig after successive military air strikes in 2016, the brothers took over what was left of it and held their trainings there. The army would attack the camp during what it called its Haribon campaign, named after the brigade unit based in Marawi. This campaign was alternately called the Butig campaign, referring to its location.

The Mautes and Abu Dar

Omarkhayam and Abdullah belonged a family that became known popularly as the Maute Group. The Maute brothers began their jihad in early 2014. The brothers’ graduate degrees from abroad were the shining scepter of their authority.

There was a third man in this partnership, an unknown rebel who goes by the alias Abu Dar, the head of the local Khalifa Islamiya Movement. Abu Dar was involved in bombings in the neighboring Christian cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro. He joined the brothers to bring their forces together and this was how the so-called Maute Group was formed.

In Butig, the supposed center of the soon-to-evolve ISIS community, the Maute brothers and Abu Dar conducted a “seminar” in October 2014, where about 40 participants went through some heavy soul-searching, complete with full confessions and weeping. They were supposedly to purify themselves of their sins and vices like smoking, drinking, and fornication. They were told that this was the way to repent. They could atone for their sins as well as intercede in behalf of 70 family members in their lineage.

Was this the beginning of radicalization? Was this going to be a one-way ticket to heaven? Could they erase their sins in the name of jihad, which was going to be the “roof to protect the community”?

Sharia law was rarely practiced by Filipino Muslims. It was only in ISIS and in Pakistan, Brunei, and Saudi Arabia that punishment of stoning for certain instances of fornication was done. By introducing this to a future of the Islamic State, the Maute leaders hoped to turn the world of Filipino Muslims – one that was generally moderate, secular, and still adhering to folk mysticism – upside down.

If the recruits felt they knew very little of what true Islam was, in this “seminar” they finally found their true education. The seminar was a hard blow to their conscience and there was no letup in changing minds and hearts until their leaders were convinced of a full conversion.

In the last phase of the seminar, the recruits were ordered to familiarize themselves with weapons. They were shown a Rocket Propelled Grenade, or an R.P.G. – the kind of weapon that paralyzed military armors in the first days of the Marawi siege. They were told that, by way of hadith, even just carrying a weapon was going to make them blessed, which would come with heavenly rewards.

They were then made to walk for an hour from their bare lodging to an open field that was to be their training ground. They went through a ring of fire, they crawled in and out of tunnels, their adrenalin fueled when live bullets rained on them. The training was supposed to give them a sense of how it was to be in a real firefight.

At the end of the training, they marched in a parade like an army that was born. Abdullah led them, riding on a horse and waving a black banner with an Arabic emblem that said “There is no god but Allah. Mohammad is the messenger of Allah.”

By the time they returned to Camp Darul Iman in Butig later that year (in December 2014), they had completed their all-around training. It was time to fight, to become martyrs and absolve themselves and their families of their sins.

In that meeting, Abdullah did most of the talking, while Abu Dar quietly stood at the back. Omarkhayam was the brother, eager for the trigger, who would draw first blood.

In February 2016, in an operation called Butig 1, he led an attack against an army detachment in Butig’s town hall. Abdullah apparently did not know about his brother’s plan to give the young recruits their baptism of fire. When the army fought back, Abdullah was forced to bring in reinforcement of about 50 men and the firefight lasted for days, this time with bombs and artillery.

Abdullah was upset at his brother for having done such a thing. “The enemy is here,” Omarkhayam was quoted as having told his younger brother, “Why do I need to ask permission to launch an attack? The enemy is here, why shouldn’t we fight?”

The military believed it was Abu Dar who reinforced Omarkhayam’s unprovoked attack on the military detachment. Butig 1 yielded political dividends for the Maute Group. A senior-ranking fighter said the group first had a small army of 30 that grew to about 200 forces, and by the time the battle of Marawi started they had about 600 fighting against government forces to gain control of Lanao del Sur’s capital.

A report by Gail Tan Ilagan of the Ateneo de Davao University, “Toward Countering Recruitment to Violent Extremism in Mindanao,” stated that in mainland Mindanao (i.e. Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur provinces), mosques and the madrasa schools, especially funded by money from Saudi Arabia, were reported to be places for potential recruits “identified through their devout worship, their regular participation in Islamic seminars, and the kind of earnest questions they ask during such gatherings.”

While the boarding schools of the toril essentially confine their students and hold them captive to extremist indoctrinations, “there is little indication of the success of mass recruitment if indeed such is being attempted in the first place.”

In Marawi, the torils were known to be the parents’ last resort for delinquent children, but for some who found out that their children were being trained in Butig under harsh conditions and in some extreme cases, were sent to tiny, isolated islands on the lake, they attempted to take them back. The orphans were much an easy prey. 

K9 units in Marawi in October 2018. VERA Files photo by Johnna Villaviray Giolagon

Butig 2/Haribon 2 broke out three months after the first one, in May 2016. The military was able to identify four small encampments in the Butig hideout, and began firing artillery in their direction. There were fighters from the Maute group that were training in Piagapo, near west of Marawi. They came to the rescue of the fighters in Butig and they were able to bring the battle back against the military before the start of the Ramadan in June. The fighters were told that striking during the Holy Month would mean having their heavenly rewards multiplied.

But the military bombardment had taken its toll. Many were wounded and escaped to the lake using a banca to seek medical assistance elsewhere. After Butig 2/Haribon 2, the group continued recruiting among close relatives, school children and orphans. Rouge fighters from the MILF and the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) also joined, beefing up a force, not of ragtag, but young solid fighters.

The arrival of Hapilon

By December 2016, there were random air strikes leading up to what would next become Butig 3/Haribon 3. The rebels were caught off guard, retreating to the hinterland border of Maguindanao. There they stayed silent. Some of the fighters had heard that one of the Abu Sayyaf leaders, Isnilon Hapilon, was coming from Basilan island to join them.

The military had information that he landed by boat along the northwestern coast by Illana Bay, along with 50 passengers who supposedly included foreign fighters. This was the basis for the third operation, believing that after such a heavy bombardment Hapilon might have gotten killed or wounded.

By all accounts, this was big news. But Hapilon actually did not arrive in Lanao until the second week of January 2017, according to one of the fighters, when the Maute brothers’ group had already settled back in Butig after the military operation. He had his own team of men, including his son, and was given his own camp where only Abdullah and Omarkhayam could see him.

The young fighters in Butig were in awe of Hapilon, coming face-to-face with the warrior who had been around since the inception of the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu in the late 1990s. Following an inspirational speech by Hapilon during a private and personal meeting, the fighters moved to Piagapo, crossing the Lake Lanao and settling by the site near a tower that was once an American settlement in the colonial days of the early 1900s.

The group stayed there for about a month, during which there was talk of a big Marawi operation, similar to what they had heard when Hapilon came to Butig. The other fighters, about 100 of them, set up camp surreptitiously and separately in the barangays around Marawi. A big plan was afoot.

Then in April 2017, the army brigade commander in Marawi asked for more troops when reports filtered in that there was going to be another attack. When elite special forces moved into Piagapo, fighting ensued. Piagapo was relatively a progressive town compared to others in Lanao del Sur province, and the local government more or less cooperated with the military in house searches after the Piagapo operation that took over the rebel camp and dismantled their base.

Military mistake

It took Air Force strikes to stop the rebels and they thought that was the end of it, and that it would take time before the rebels could regroup and strike somewhere else. As it turned out, the military was very wrong.

Soon after conducting the Piagapo operations, their attention was suddenly diverted towards going after communist rebels operating at the border into Bukidnon on the eastern flank of Lanao del Sur. The army camp in Marawi was left vulnerable with only about a company on guard. This explains why, despite receiving naval intelligence reports all the way from the Western Command in Zamboanga, warning of an impending threat by Hapilon and his comrades, the local command was in no position to prevent the rebels’ siege of Marawi on May 23.

The battle of Marawi was officially declared over after the military killed Isnilon Hapilon and Omarkhayam Maute in mid-October 2017. Abdullah Maute, too, was believed killed earlier in the siege but there have been no reports of his body being retrieved.

Abu Dar escaped and tried to put a new army together. His plan was short-lived; he was killed in a firefight with an army platoon in mid-March 2019, in an area a mere 30 kilometers from Butig. 

President Rodrigo Duterte pays tribute to soldiers who fought in Marawi at a ceremony at Laguindingan Airport in Cagayan de Oro City on October 20, 2017. Malacañang photo by Ace Morandante

Marawi, however, has never recovered from the battle. It remains a devastated area and its residents still to receive the government aid promised by President Rodrigo Duterte who, later in his speeches, relinquished those promises to rebuild Marawi, saying there were enough wealthy Maranao families who could provide the needed help. He also blamed the illegal drug trade and corruption money as impetus for the violence.

By reducing the causes and aftermath of the Marawi siege to a black-and-white issue, the government would likely fail to address the Muslims’ future in nation building, as previous administrations lacked foresight and cutting-edge policies.

Marawi story still unfolding

The narrative of how the Marawi conflict came into fruition remains as incomplete as are the many unanswered questions. For example, how does one draw links and connect dots from place to place (rebel strongholds) and people to people (rebel leaders) before the plot to take over Marawi was hatched? Is it the clandestine movement of foreign terrorists vis-à-vis the local rebel movement that spelled a change in the trajectory of the Muslim insurgency?

Mapping out the links and alliances would be as tough and arduous as unspooling the threads binding the clans and family loyalties, not to mention their place as dynastic families in the sphere of local governance. But it was certainly the call to violence over the years, the inability to stop it at all cost, that made the southern enclaves of the Muslim Mindanao an open field.

In early 2019, roughly two years after the Marawi siege began, a new Bangsamoro authority was put in place for a regional election in the near future for a new autonomous government. It is imperative that it forges ahead in its map to define a resurgence of Muslim pride and demand equality among Filipinos; to reel back would no doubt bring Mindanao into a spiral deeper in violence, serving yet again the ingredients for another Marawi crisis in the making.

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)