Monday, December 23, 2019

Rescued kidnap victims turned over to Indonesian authorities

From the Philippine Star (Dec 24, 2019): Rescued kidnap victims turned over to Indonesian authorities (Roel Pareño)

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — Two Indonesians rescued from their Abu Sayyaf captors on Sunday were turned over to Indonesian authorities yesterday.

Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Western Mindanao Command chief, said Maharudin bin Lunani, 48, and Samiun bin Maneu, 26, were turned over to Indonesian Ambassador Sinyo Harry Sarundajang during a briefing held at the military headquarters in this city.

Maharudin and Samiun were rescued on Sunday after a series of encounters between Abu Sayyaf bandits and government troopers in Barangay Pugad Manaul, Panamao, Sulu.

“Our President Joko Widodo and Foreign Affairs Minister Madam Retno would like to thank you for your bravery and what you did... for us as brothers… The Army and the police took them in a very difficult situation with that encounter,” Sarundajang said.

Maharudin and Samiun along with Muhammad Farhan, 27, were snatched from their fishing vessel off Lahad Datu in Sabah on Sept. 23. Their kidnappers brought them to Sulu.

Maharudin said their captors did not harm them but fed them only twice a day. He said they slept on the ground during their 90 days in captivity.

A video earlier posted on social media showed the victims appealing to their employers and the Indonesian government to heed the ransom demand of the kidnappers.

The victims, who were supposed to be flown to Indonesia, also yesterday, will be presented to Widodo and Marsudi.

Duterte inclined to allow BARMM to ‘establish’ own ‘armed forces’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 23, 2019): Duterte inclined to allow BARMM to ‘establish’ own ‘armed forces’ (By Darryl John Esguerra)

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said he would allow the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to have its own armed forces as he urged the region to “assert” its authority against terrorists.

Speaking before agrarian reform beneficiaries from BARMM in Cotabato City, Duterte said the region can organize its own police or military entity for as long as it would “kill the terrorists” in Mindanao.

“Alam mo sa totoo lang when you are already evolved into something which is really a regional at meron kayong sariling armed forces or police, payag ako. Mag-armas kayo but you know you have to kill the terrorists,” Duterte said. (You know if evolved into something that is really a regional entity, you should have your own armed forces or police—and I will allow that. You armed yourselves but you know you have to kill the terrorists.)

However, under the Bangsamoro charter, the regional government is not allowed to have its own defense force.

Asked for clarification, Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo, said that what the President meant was that BARMM’s security force will still be under the national government and the supervision of the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“In other words, kasi ‘yung grupong ‘yan dati nang merong security, (because that group used to have security), in other words, the President will be using that same security group of that particular group but still under the AFP and PNP,” Panelo told reporters in a phone interview.

The President likewise said he wants the region, led by former Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chair Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim who now sits as Interim Chief Minister, to “assert” its authority against terrorists to avoid the escalation of armed conflict in the country.

“The BARMM government should assert its authority at kung ayaw nila patayin ninyo because those were — they are the guys that will create trouble in the future,” he said.

(The BARMM government should assert its authority and if they do not want to honor you, kill them because they are — they are the guys that will create trouble in the future.)

Duterte, the first Philippine President with Moro blood, said BARMM should take advantage of his remaining years in office to “evolve into something that is a functional regional autonomous government.”

The BARRM, which replaced the poverty- and conflict-stricken Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), was created through the enactment of the Bangsamoro Organic Law—a product of the government’s negotiations with the MILF, whose key members and leaders now leads the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).

The region is facing threats from armed groups like Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters which, according to Ebrahim, have lured young fighters out of financial necessity.

Statement of PCOO Sec Andanar on the govt's ceasefire implementation with the CPP-NPA-NDF

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 23,2019): Statement of PCOO Sec Andanar on the govt's ceasefire implementation with the CPP-NPA-NDF (By PCOO)

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We laud President Duterte’s response in implementing a nationwide unilateral and reciprocal ceasefire with the Communist Party of the Philippines–New People’s Army–National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) from December 23, 2019 to January 7, 2020.

This peaceful precedent is a shared commitment with the CPP Central Committee towards the resumption of formal peace negotiations as informal preparatory talks are soon to be undertaken.

Furthermore, this confidence-building measure has always been part of this administration’s campaign in ending the five-decade old armed conflict with the CPP-NPA-NDF groups.

Our armed forces and authorities will continue to remain vigilant and attentive throughout the period of the ceasefire, at the ready to respond to any threats should there be any.

We will also continue the implementation of the initiatives under the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) as its whole-of-nation approach to deliver basic social and security services and development, and to facilitate inclusivity is the best framework with which we can end communist conflict.

We will continue to be serious and committed in attaining the peace that this nation has been longing for with the CPP-NPA-NDF as we want to achieve security, progress, and development together with all Filipinos.

We hope that this implemented ceasefire will allow everyone to enjoy a period of peace and goodwill throughout the Yuletide season. Our deeper wishes are for everyone to celebrate the holidays with their loved ones, free from any form of violence, and for the communist rebels to lay down their arms and come back to the fold of the government and return to their families and communities. (PCOO)

Provincial Task Force-ELCAC engages youth to promote peace

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 23,2019): Provincial Task Force-ELCAC engages youth to promote peace (By Vicente W. Villavert)

SAN JOSE, Antique, Dec. 23 (PIA) - - The Campus Peace and Development Forum has engaged the student sector to take a clear picture of their role in community peace building.

PLTC Norby Escobar, Deputy Provincial Director for Operations of the Antique Police Provincial Office, emphasizes the need to guide the students or the youth sector to be more effective in the promotion of peace and development in their community during the Campus Peace and Development Forum held at the University of Antique, Sibalom town, recently. (/PIA Antique/TW V)

Close to 500 students and teachers attended the gathering held at the University of Antique (UA) in Sibalom town with no less than UA President Pablo Crespo urging the students to listen to the briefing on Executive Order No. 70, which aims to address root causes of insurgency through the Whole-of-Nation approach and the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

DILG Antique Provincial Director Cherryl Tacda said that there is a need to create a national task force that will provide an efficient mechanism and structure for the implementation of the Whole-of-Nation Approach to aid in the realization of the collective aspiration of the Filipino people to attain inclusive and sustainable peace.

For his part, Lieutenant Colonel Dennis Q. Alcarde, the Philippine Air Force TOG 6 Group Commander, urged the students to love their parents and also to finish their college education in order to be effective in the promotion of peace and development in their community.

The activity also included the lecture of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, and the demonstration of K-9 Unit where students were amazed upon witnessing the skills of the explosive-detection dog.

Resource persons during the open forum warned the students that left-leaning organizations and other groups are doing a lot of strategies to recruit the youth as they are easy targets to manipulate.

The K-9 Unit Capability Demonstration Exercise features an explosive detection dog’s skills during the Campus Peace and Development Forum held at the University of Antique in Sibalom town, recently. (PIA Antique/TW V)

The Campus Peace and Development Forum was conducted by the provincial government through the Peace and Order and Public Safety in coordination with the UA, Philippine Air Force, Philippine Army, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, Philippine National Police, and other stakeholders.

It will be recalled that the Provincial Task Force-ELCAC through POPS has already conducted two Medical, Dental and Information Caravans in the municipalities of San Remigio and Valderrama, this province. (JBG/VWV/PIA Antique)

Capiz former reds avail gov’t assistance package

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 23,2019): Capiz former reds avail gov’t assistance package (By Jemin B. Guillermo)

ROXAS CITY, Capiz, Dec. 23 (PIA) – Members of the New People’s Army from Capiz, who returned to the folds of law, have availed the package of assistance from the government.

According to 1st Lieutenant Hazel Joy Durotan, Information Officer of the Philippine Army’s 61st Infantry Battalion, the package of assistance of the government, through the Department of the Interior and Local Government, was personally distributed to the former rebels by DILG Capiz director John Ace Azarcon.

Officials from the Provincial Social Welfare and Development, Philippine Army, Philippine National Police and Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict were likewise present during the event, December 13, in barangay Lagdungan, Tapaz, Capiz.

Three regular members of the NPA were each given 50,000 livelihood assistance while the five Militia ng Bayan were each given P15,000 immediate assistance.

The financial assistance is part of the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP)

Aside from the distribution of DILG package of assistance, the monitoring of livelihood assistance and provision of psychological support activities were also done for the former rebels, Durotan said.

The former rebels and Militia ng Bayan beneficiaries each received P1,000 transportation assistance.

Department of the Interior and Local Government-Capiz director John Ace Azarcon vows to workfor the establishment of a halfway house for the former rebels. (61IB photo/PIA)

They were also given seeds courtesy of the Department of Agriculture-Regional Office 6, while the children were also given toys.

Meanwhile 61IB Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Joel Benedict Batara reiterated his call to the remaining members of the CPP-NPA to take the opportunity to surrender themselves to the government, avail the E-CLIP and other government programs, and live a normal life with their family.

Batara said there were already a number of former rebels who have availed of the program.

He added that Executive Order 70 of President Duterte that institutionalizes the Whole-of-Nation Approach is an effective strategy to end local communist armed conflict, thus attaining peace in the country. (JBG/PIA6-Capiz)

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GenSan raises alert after blasts in Cotabato City, 2 other areas

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 23,2019): GenSan raises alert after blasts in Cotabato City, 2 other areas (By Allen Estabillo)

Col. Aden Aden Lagradante, General Santos City police director. (PNA file photo)

GENERAL SANTOS CITY -- Authorities here have tightened security measures following the series of bomb attacks in Cotabato City and the provinces of North Cotabato and Maguindanao on Sunday evening that left more than 20 people wounded.

Col. Aden Lagradante, city police director, said Monday they implemented “enhanced security measures” in the entire city to avert the occurrence of similar incidents, especially during the Christmas and New Year celebrations in the area.

Lagradante said the city is currently under Alert Level 3 due to the area’s security situation and the prevailing martial law in Mindanao.

He said they have assigned additional police teams to patrol various areas and set up random checkpoints, on top of the permanent checkpoints established in the city’s four main entry and exit points.

The Army-led Joint Task Force GenSan also maintains separate checkpoints in four main highways leading to the city.

Lagradante said motorists should expect longer queues at the checkpoints as he directed their personnel to conduct more thorough searches of all vehicles entering the city proper.

“I am appealing for understanding as we’re only after everybody’s safety,” he said in an interview with reporters.

The police official said they have beefed up the security in shopping malls, churches, transport terminals, markets and other public places.

Lagradante said they have not received any direct security threat so far but added that they are not taking lightly the situation in the neighboring areas.

“Rest assured that the security situation in the city is under control and we are doing everything to maintain that,” he added.

Centcom chief condemns attack after ceasefire declaration

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 23,2019): Centcom chief condemns attack after ceasefire declaration (By John Rey Saavedra)

CEASEFIRE ATTACK. Central Command chief, Maj. Gen. Roberto Ancan, faces the media after his assumption to office on Oct. 30, 2019, at the Bondad Hall in Camp Lapu-Lapu. Ancan on Monday (Dec. 23, 2019) condemned the attack by the New People's Army (NPA) in Tubungan, Iloilo using an anti-personnel mine that hurt two members of the Iloilo 1st Provincial Mobile Force Company. (PNA file photo by John Rey Saavedra)

The top military official in the Visayas on Monday condemned the attack on members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) by communist insurgents in the boundary of the villages of Singon and Male, Tubungan town of Iloilo that hurt two cops.
In a statement, Maj. Gen. Roberto Ancan, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Central Command (Centcom), said the atrocious act of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) in detonating an anti-personnel mine happened “less than a day after CPP declared a unilateral ceasefire" on Sunday (Dec. 22).

Malacañang, through Presidential Spokesperson Salvador, also ordered a “unilateral and reciprocal ceasefire” with the CPP-NPA and the National Democratic Front on Sunday which will be implemented nationwide from December 23 to January 7, 2020.

With the recent attack in Iloilo, Ancan described the CPP-NPA as a “double-edged sword” for launching terroristic action against government forces in less than a day after it issued the unilateral ceasefire.

Two members of the Iloilo 1st Provincial Mobile Force Company were wounded after the patrol car they were riding was ambushed using an anti-personnel mine.

Ancan said the police personnel were on their traveling back to their headquarters after pulling out from the area following the order of suspension of police operation (SOPO) relative to the ceasefire.

Two wounded cops were able to get out of the kill zone, he said.

“This another atrocity proves the duplicitous talking of these terror organizations that after they’ve demanded peace, they deceitfully attacked our troops. They’ve done it again. But this time the whole world is watching and are seeing the real intention of their leaders who are asking for peace, (but are) full of lies and deceit,” he said.

Ancan reassured the people in the Visayas that Centcom will continue to fulfill its duty to protect the communities in the three regions in the central Philippines from the terrorist attacks done by the communist guerillas.

He also urged the public to be wary of the CPP-NPA’s double talk.

“They demand peace but their actions speak otherwise. We cannot let them (NPAs) roam around and lord over the lives of our peace-loving people. Our role is to protect our people and secure their communities from these terrorists,” he added.

Ancan said the NPA must show its sincerity on ending all kinds of violence such as economic sabotage, extortion activities, terrorizing and killing people.

He underscored President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement that there should be compelling reasons to return to the negotiating table and talk peace with the communist insurgents.

“As we have been repeatedly saying in every peace talks, we view it with guarded optimism. But then again people must be aware of peace spoilers. Just like what happened early today. We have enough reasons to believe including the revelations of their former comrades that the CPP-NPA-NDF does not really intend to make peace with the government but to overthrow the whole government and establish a revolutionary form that will be ruled by these bunch of criminals.” Ancan said.

In the past years, the CPP usually announced a unilateral ceasefire during the holiday season, which coincides with the anniversary of the NPA on December 26.

The CPP-NPA has been listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

Gov't to go after perpetrators of Mindanao blasts

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 23,2019): Gov't to go after perpetrators of Mindanao blasts (By Azer Parrocha)

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo

Malacañang on Monday condemned the perpetrators behind a series of blasts that rocked Cotabato City, North Cotabato and Maguindanao and injured several people, including soldiers, on Sunday.

“We will pursue the perpetrators and will harness all our might to crush all evil forces or enemies of the state, as well as their supporters,”
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement. “Any attempt to sow fear, hatred and violence is doomed to fail."

Panelo urged residents to remain vigilant and report suspicious personalities and unattended items.

He assured that authorities are now investigating the matter as casualties continue to undergo treatment.

Meanwhile, he said President Rodrigo Duterte will push through with his schedule to visit areas where the bombings took place after he distributes land certificates of land ownership award (CLOAs) to beneficiaries there.

Reports showed that at least 23 individuals, including nine soldiers, were wounded in the series of explosions, nine days before martial law in Mindanao ends on Dec. 31.

Despite the explosions, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said it will not recommend an extension of martial law in Mindanao.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said it suspected that the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) was behind the blasts.

The BIFF is an offshoot of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which is now in power in the BARMM.

On Dec. 10, Panelo bared that President Rodrigo Duterte has heeded Philippine security officials' recommendation not to extend martial law, following the drop in crime incidents in the southern Philippines.

Duterte first placed Mindanao under military rule on May 23, 2017, the same day Islamic State-linked Maute terror group laid siege to Marawi City in Lanao de Sur province.

Section 18, Article 7 of the 1987 Constitution provides that a President can declare martial law and suspend the writ of habeas corpus for a period not exceeding 60 days, in case of invasion or rebellion.

The Constitution likewise states that such proclamation of martial law or suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus can either be revoked or extended for a period determined by Congress through joint voting.

Congress extended the initial 60-day martial rule thrice upon the President’s recommendation to help state forces quell the insurgency in Mindanao.

Instead of martial law, the AFP will continue to pursue its advocacy to amend the Human Security Act of 2007 by giving it more teeth.

The Human Security Act of 2007 or RA 9372 is meant to provide law enforcement and judicial authorities with the legal tools to confront terror threats in the country.

Earlier, Senate President Vicente Sotto III assured the passage of a tougher law amending the Human Security Act of 2007.

At present, Senate Bill No. 1083, sponsored by Senate defense committee chair and former Philippine National Police chief Panfilo Lacson, is in the plenary at the period of interpellation.

Sending Joma home may halt NPA attacks: group

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 23,2019): Sending Joma home may halt NPA attacks: group (By Lade Jean Kabagani)

CONDEMNATION RALLY. The League of Parents of the Philippines holds a rally on Dec. 23 as they urge the Dutch Embassy to stop harboring Communist Party of the Philippines founder Joma Sison and to terminate his asylum status in the Netherlands. The group also condemned the terrorist activities of the CPP-NPA, the latest of which was the attack in Borongan City, Eastern Samar. (Contributed photo)

The anti-communist group, League of Parents of the Philippines (LPP) on Monday said the return of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria "Joma" Sison to the Philippines and the termination of his asylum status in the Netherlands may curtail the attacks made by the New People's Army.

The group made this call during a condemnation rally in front of the Dutch Embassy in Makati City, as they called on the Dutch embassy to cooperate in the return of Sison.

Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, who was in the gathering, said the Dutch government should stop harboring Sison and let him face every rap filed against him.

He said this would help the Philipines address the long-standing communist insurgency and even curb communists' recruitment among youth.

"Kung itinuturing ng Netherlands na kaibigan nila ang Pilipinas ay dapat hindi nila itatago at kakalingain ang isang taong napakalaki ng kasalanan sa sambayang Pilipino (If the Netherlands considers the Philippines as its friend, it should not harbor a man with many sins to the Filipino people)," he said.

Sison, Topacio said, is orchestrating the communist insurgency while he is under the protection of the Dutch government.

This setup, Topacio added, results in the death of soldiers, policemen, and civilians, yet Sison's punishment of his supposed crimes are not justly served.

"Joma Sison should face the Philippine justice system by the time he gets back here," he said.

The league also condemned the recent attack of suspected News People's Army (NPA) rebels in Borongan City, Eastern Samar, which has resulted in the death of four individuals.

The NPA is the armed wing of the CPP.

No stopping

Aside from series of protests, Topacio said the league will extend more efforts to send back Sison to the Philippines.

"You'll see, we will step up our activities as I've said earlier. We will fight, even if it means that we have to go there to protest in front of Joma's house, we will do that," he said.

He added that even if it means that the league has to write communications to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Netherlands just to report the CPP-NPA's atrocities, they will not hesitate to do it.

Topacio said the LPP will exert more pressure on the country's diplomatic institutions just to send Sison home.

"Yun lang naman ang amin eh, kung susunod sila sa batas, wala kaming pakialam kung komunista, sosyalista sila. (That's all we wanted, that they follow the law. We don't care if they're communists or socialists.) We are a democratic society, but once you violate the law by taking arms against the government, and killing soldiers na bibilang din naman yan sa mga maralita na sinasabi nila, na ipinaglalaban nila, hindi po tayo pwedeng magkasundo at patuloy po kaming lalaban sa inyo (who also belong to the poor as they say, and whom they are fighting for, we cannot agree with you on that and we will continue to fight against you)," he said.

Topacio urged members of the NPA to stop pushing the communists' wrong ideologies.

"Ubusin man natin lahat ng sundalo at kapulisan ngayon, magalit man tayo sa gobyerno, hindi yan garantiya na mawawala po yung mga sakit ng ating lipunan. Ang makakawala po ng sakit na yan ay working within the law, ireporma natin ang mga batas, ireporma natin ag struktura ng pamahalaan upang yung sinasabi niyong mga hadlang sa ating tuluyang pag asenso ay mawala na (You can wipe out all soldiers and policemen, you can get angry with the government, but it won't guarantee solution to societal issues. It can be solved by working within the law, reforming the law, reforming the government and the structure so that problems will be addressed.)

The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

AFP reports possible violations of truce by Reds

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 23,2019): AFP reports possible violations of truce by Reds
(By Priam Nepomuceno, Gail Momblan and Mar Serrano)

Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Marine Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo. (PNA file photo)

Three communist-initiated attacks were reported in the provinces of Iloilo, Quezon and Camarines Norte on the first day of the holiday ceasefire between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army- National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson (AFP), Marine Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, in a press briefing in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, said the AFP is considering as "possible violations" of the ceasefire declared by President Rodrigo Duterte and the rebel group the series of attacks conducted by communist rebels against security forces in Tagkawayan, Quezon; Labo, Camarines Norte; and Tubunga, Iloilo; on Monday.

A soldier was killed and six others were wounded in the attack in Camarines Norte, two cops were wounded in Iloilo, while no government troop was hurt in Quezon. All three attacks were staged at past 9 a.m., Arevalo said.
"These (possible ceasefire violations) show that the leadership of the CPP-NPA-NDF does not have any control over their people," he said.

He added that while combat operations are suspended for the duration of the truce, patrol operations will continue to ensure that communities are safe from all threats.

The ceasefire is effective from 12 a.m. of December 23, 2019 until 11:59 p.m. of January 7, 2020.

The rebel atrocity in Camarines Norte was staged in a remote village of Labo town.

Army Maj. Ricky Aguilar, 9th Infantry Division (9ID) public affairs chief, said a platoon of Army soldiers on combat patrol was pulling out of Barangay Baay when attacked by an undetermined number of NPA members.

Rebels planted and detonated an improvised explosive device on the path where the soldiers would pass and subsequently fired upon them, killing a soldier and wounding six others.

A brief firefight ensued, prompting the rebels to flee and seek refuge in neighboring hinterland villages.

Maj. Gen. Fernando Trinidad, commander of Joint Task Force Bicolandia (JTFB) condemned the attack as a treacherous act of the communist rebels and a violation of the ceasefire.

Trinidad, in a press statement, expressed his strong disappointment with the rebel group's defiance of the truce, which aims to give Filipinos a peaceful way to celebrate the Yuletide season.

This action is a clear manifestation of their deceptive and ill motives as well as their use of terror and violence, which, for so long a time, has hampered the government's campaign to attain sustainable peace and development, he added.

Meanwhile, in the Iloilo attack, members of the Iloilo 1st Provincial Mobile Force Company (1st PMFC) were waylaid by rebels at the boundary of the Male and Singon villages in Tubungan town.

The rebels used anti-personnel mines in the attack, damaging the patrol car of the 1st PMFC and inflicting minor injuries to two company members, a police report said.

Brig. Gen. Rene Pamuspusan, director of the Police Regional Office in Western Visayas (PRO-6), in an interview, said the policemen were on their way back to headquarters following the suspension of police operations.

“Because of the ceasefire agreement, we recalled our troops and ceased to conduct combat operations already. We called our troops last night and they just waited for the daylight to withdraw to avoid such incidence but it was unfortunate that the enemies took advantage of our withdrawal and did this very condemnable action against our troops,” Pamuspusan said.

Despite this, he said the PRO-6 will still uphold the ceasefire agreement as directed by the police headquarters.

“We will still honor the ceasefire agreement as directed by the national headquarters but the instruction now to the lower units is we should be more vigilant in our movement, troop movement and of course in the defense of our vital installations such as our camps and our municipal police stations,” Pamuspusan said.

The police will assess the situation and will “do the necessary adjustment in our defensive preparation and stance,” he said.

Pamuspusan also assured that the police will investigate the incident and will file necessary charges against those who initiated the ambush.

The CPP Central Committee also declared a truce as the government declared a suspension of military and police operations.

The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

Gov’t ready for NPA attacks despite holiday truce with Reds

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 23,2019): Gov’t ready for NPA attacks despite holiday truce with Reds (By Azer Parrocha)

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo

Malacañang on Monday said the government is prepared for possible attacks that may be launched by the New People's Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), even after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a unilateral and reciprocal ceasefire.

On Sunday, Duterte ordered a 15-day ceasefire from December 23 until January 7 next year to create a “positive environment” ahead of the resumption of formal peace talks with consultants of
the CPP’s political arm, the National Democratic Front (NDF).

Duterte earlier announced that Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, former state chief peace negotiator, would hold a dialogue with communist founder Jose Maria "Joma" Sison in The Netherlands for the possible revival of peace talks between the national government and the NDF.

However, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that it did not matter if the NPA does not honor its word because the purpose of terrorist organizations is to “put the government down.”

“Let me put it this way: The communist rebels will always want this government to fall; that is precisely the purpose by which this organization has been conceived from the very beginning,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.

“So it is not far-fetched that they want to eliminate all the officials running this government. But we are prepared for that. We are ready for that, they have been trying to do that for the last 50 years and they have failed,” he added.

Should the NPA launch an attack, Panelo said it will immediately destroy the presumption of their sincerity in resuming peace talks.

He explained that the President is willing to take the risk to push through with the peace talks because he “doesn’t want more bloodshed of our own fellow Filipinos.”

“We want it stopped; it’s about time they return to the fold of the law,” Panelo said.

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar lauded Duterte’s decision to call for a truce, stressing that a confidence-building measure has always been part of this administration’s campaign in ending armed conflict.

Andanar said the government will continue the implementation of the initiatives under the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

The NTF-ELCAC, established through Executive Order No. 70, implements a whole-of-nation approach to deliver basic social and security services and development and to facilitate inclusivity as the best framework with which the country can address communist armed conflict.

“We will continue to be serious and committed to attaining the peace that this nation has been longing for,” Andanar said.

The PCOO chief was hopeful that the ceasefire will allow the public to celebrate the holidays “free from any form of violence.”

He also wanted to see communist rebels lay down their arms and return to the fold of the law.

Duterte's decision to order a ceasefire with the communist movement came upon the recommendation of Bello, authorized state negotiator Hernani Braganza, NDF negotiating panel senior adviser Luis Jalandoni, and NDF negotiating panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili.

On Dec. 5, 2017, the President issued Proclamation 374, classifying the CPP-NPA as terror organizations because of their supposed commission of crimes that are “against the Filipino people, against humanity, and the law of the nations”.

The United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand have classified the CPP-NPA as a terror group.

Transnational Stategies of ISIS Post Baghdadi

Posted to Modern Diplomacy (Dec 22, 2019): Transnational Stategies of ISIS Post Baghdadi (By Kritika Karmakar)

From being proclaimed dead on multiple occasions to the actual confirmation of his death by the Islamic State, the life of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been shrouded in mystery in both life and death. Rising from extremely ordinary ranks, the self proclaimed caliph had made immense progress in causing a wave of violence and threatening the security of superpowers like the US for a while now. However this all changed as Donald Trump announced the success of a US raid conducted in northwest Syria on the 26th of October, 2019. This announcement soon raised questions on the future of the Islamic State and the announcement of the new Caliph.

Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi, parted ways from Al-Qaeda in 2013 and declared a Caliphate and himself as the Caliph. His main aim being, to consolidate the Muslims around the world in the name of Islam and form an Islamic State. Baghdadi, who had been particularly careful about making public appearances was seen in the pulpit of a mosque in Mosul on July 5, 2014. In a 21 minute long video which was made public, Baghdadi is seen speaking in Arabic and states that “the establishment of a Caliphate is an obligation.” However, he also claims his righteousness by saying that “I am not better than you or more virtuous than you,”. He further adds, “If you see me on the right path, help me. If you see me on the wrong path, advise me and halt me. And obey me as far as I obey God.”

These appealing sermons of Baghdadi, showcase only a part of his personality. ISIS under his rule has been infamous for subscribing to violence and is considered one of the most brutal in the world. The confirmation of his death along with the death of the potential future heir, was made public by ISIS via an audio tape on 31st of October. The audio release was made by the organization’s central media arm , al-Furqan Foundation. Moreover the announcement was made by a new spokesperson who identified himself as Abu Hamza al-Qureshi, and warned the US government against rejoicing over this victory. The proclamation of the new caliph, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qureshi was also made along with the news of the death of a previous spokesman of the organization Abu Hassan al-Muhajir. These corroborations on part of the organization has raised questions about the dwindling future of the so called Islamic State.

Implications of the loss of a leader

Financial struggles

So far ISIS, has enjoyed an estimate of 800 million dollars of annual income from multiple sources. Majority of its income was a result of extortion and exploitation of people living under their rule. The rest came from illegal oil trade, kidnappings, and lootings. A great portion of the funds was also facilitated by foreign donors and illicit activities on the dark web. However, after the considerable loss of territory due to a series of US raids carried out in Syria and Iraq, a sizeable amount of damage has been done to the institution’s economy. In spite of losing 98% of its territory ISIS still seems pretty confident with its financial reserves. Till the time the organization gets hold of its previous territories it would be largely dependent on its foreign donors and illegal trafficking networks. Foreign donors, usually use the hawala system to transfer money into the ISIS bank account. In light of ISIS’s present circumstances, and bearing in mind the rising number of sympathizers, these kind of commiserate funding are probably to rise.

A New leader

Until Baghdadi’s reign, he was the sole authoritative figurehead of the organization. Even though he was aided by a Shura (consultative) council, the appointment process of the council was usually his doing. This made him an unchecked figurehead who was in charge of sanctioning any kind of decision. Close associates of the organization were directed by him, however his command on overseas affiliates remains unclear. The death of Baghdadi has clearly created a major power vacuum in the administration of the system. The Shura council, even though the second most powerful entity, still was largely dependent on its leader for any decision- making process. It would be especially rare if the organization is able to find a leader as influential as Baghdadi. In the absence of which, internal skirmishes for assimilating power is absolutely possible. Barely any information is available about, the new leader, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qureshi, except that he traces his lineage to one of the primary tribes of prophet Muhammad. This however is not enough to determine one’s headship qualities, and taking into account, ISIS’s dire straits, it is desperately in need of a capable commander.

Increased social media influence

As a relatively new terrorist organization, that took roots in 2006, ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) has not been unaware of the influence of social media and cyberspace. Social media has been exploited to a great extent and has been a great aid in propagating the Jihadist ideology. However, after the death of its leader probabilities of ISIS making an extensive appearance on social media sites have increased. The organization makes use of a psycho-cyber approach that has two advantages- reaching a larger audience and manipulating minds in a lucrative way.

Ever since the news of Baghdadi’s death was made public, the internet has experienced a mixed reaction to the situation. As many were busy applauding the US government for taking such a bold step against terrorism, there were many others who swore their allegiance to Jihad. Pro-ISIS ideology has also surged, especially on social media sites such as Telegram (one of the primary sites used by ISIS). With the loss of a Caliph, posts swelling with sentiments have come forward, that vow to keep fighting in the name of Jihad, irrespective of a Caliph.

Apart from the crafty use of cyberspace, ISIS has also made use of language as a medium of publicity. Dabiq the English magazine that is published by the organization aims at making the Jihadi ideology open to all. The use of Arabic in the posts, tweets and other such documents creates the effect of being closer to the agenda and the teachings of Quran. Videos released by the organization too feature in multiple languages thereby radicalizing a larger group.

Ever since Baghdadi’s death, there have been more than a thousand tweets and retweets on pro-ISIS ideas on Twitter. Even though Twitter has worked tirelessly to take down these accounts, there are always a few that spring back up. The best way to garner more support and appear in most pages is by using hashtags. ISIS has exploited this possibility too and posts pictures with multiple hashtags so as to increase their visibility in the cyber domain.

ISIS’s social media strategy includes- recruiting sympathizers, subverting its opponents, reaching a larger audience, influencing the public with their propaganda. After the loss of its leader, ISIS is making use of the internet to the best of its abilities to keep its supporters united as well as enlist more individuals to the cause, in order to make an impactful comeback.

Retaliatory attacks

The terror of Islamic State does not simply end with the death of Baghdadi. Nations worldwide have feared being attacked by the institution and have also openly shared their concerns regarding the matter. The United States and the EU (European Union), both have increased vigilance in their security forces, fearing retaliation from the organization.

However, in order to form a structured revenge plan, the ISIS needs to have sufficient means to do so. After the loss of territory in Iraq and Syria, the followers of the group have been scattered along the region. Not to mention having a considerable amount of supporters from Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia and Pakistan. Yet, the lack of a consolidated leadership limits the chances of a large scale attack. Speculations about lone wolf attacks have been made, however none of such cases have been reported so far.

The simple aim of organizing such an attack can however lead to a greater solidarity among its supporters. Collusions among lone wolves or individual entities and local terrorist organizations are most likely to occur, yet the extent of a major retaliation would require a lot of time. Resources and funding are also areas to look into, and given the current weak stance of the Islamic State, seeking vengeance is still a long way to go.

However, ISIS is a determined group and most likely will rise again. The loss of territory along with the loss of its most influential leaders has tarnished its reputation. Meaning that in the long run, the organization would definitely want to rebuild its empire, the question is how?

Regaining lost glory- in search of the new Caliphate

Ever since its inception, Iraq and Syria have been the main strongholds for ISIS. This was primarily due to the fact that ISIS rose as a segment of Al-Qaeda which was established in the region. After Baghdadi’s revolt against the functioning’s of Al-Qaeda he founded his Caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Baghdadi who was an Iraqi national himself was well informed about the region and had good knowledge of the local affiliates who would be willing to join him. The political turmoil in the region, also served in providing the organization with a conducive environment to grow. Hence, Iraq and Syria became one of the most prized locations for the organization. However, this all changed as the Caliphate kept losing its territory at the hands of multiple entities. Even today, the US Homeland Security Forces are keeping the sleeper cells of the organization on a run. This however doesn’t answer the question to the recent power vacuum that has been created in the region as well as in the organization and in all likelihood, the organization will venture out to seek better avenues.

Southeast Asia

After the announcement of Baghdadi’s death, European nations were not the only ones to express their concerns about the possibility of retaliatory attacks. Officials from Southeast Asian countries such as the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia have also been perturbed by the returning of attackers, given the dominant presence of ISIS in the region. Over the past few years Southeast Asian authorities have seen a rise in the number of individuals who choose to migrate to Iraq and Syria in order to fight for the organization. The region is constantly threatened by the increasing influence of the group and the escalating numbers of sympathizers it has managed to gain over a short period of time. Thus making it highly incorrect to limit the identity of the Islamic State to Iraq and Syria alone.

ISIS as an organization, currently faces a power vacuum in its system. This can only result in the formation of new affiliates in the region or an increasing probability of a brand new terrorist organization taking form from the remaining shambles of ISIS. The death of Baghdadi would hence be used as a tactical measure to gain more supporters in the region as well as to create a wave of radicalization in Southeast Asia. However, there are multiple challenges that the organization itself needs to address before starting to rebuild its empire.

The nations in the pacific that are highly affected by ISIS are namely- Indonesia, Philippines, and Malaysia. The paper shall take a brief look at the recent terrorist activities in each of the countries and speculate on the possibilities of an emerging Islamic State.


In 2016, the nation experienced one of its first terrorist attacks caused by the ISIS. According to reports it was the first successful attack that the organization had managed to conduct in the country. A grenade attack was carried out in a nightclub, located in Puchong in Selangor state. Eight Malaysians and one Chinese were injured. Irrespective of the magnitude of the attack, the authorities nabbed two Malaysians who were affiliated with the Islamic State.

This is not the only case of radicalization that has been experienced in the nation. In July of 2019, the Counter Terrorism division of Malaysia allegedly caught hold of – 12 Indonesians, 3 Malaysians and one Indian on charges of plotting attacks against unnamed politicians and non- Muslims. On interrogation , the accused were found guilty of spreading the Salfi Jihadist teachings and recruiting members for the ISIS, through social media. As per interrogation reports, the suspects were aged between 22 and 36 and were heavily involved in enlisting new members for the Islamic State from Indonesia and Malaysia, and also planned on launching attacks after the recruitment procedure was completed. They have also been associated in channeling funds for the Maute terrorist group based in the Philippines.

If one were to simply take a look at the Movida club attacks, one would realize how the roots of terror have slowly penetrated into the fabric of Malaysian society. Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi, was a Malaysian national moved to Syria in order to join the ISIS. Since then he has been listed as one of the top recruiters and handles nearly all social media sites in the region. He was in charge of setting up nearly 100 WhatsApp groups which were all managed by Syrian social media hackers. The participants of these WhatsApp groups were usually college and university students from across the nation. Muhammad Wanndy who was responsible for setting up numerous sleeper cells in Malaysia, passed away in 2017 in a drone attack in Syria. One of the cells being the ‘Black Crow’ or Gagak Hitam. This was a well networked group that consisted of citizens from all walks of life, who secretly took orders from Wanndy. The Black Crow was simply an example of one of the many sleeper cells in the area, that continuously conspired against the government.

Apart from the presence of underground cells, terrorist organizations such as the Katibah Nusantara (Islamic State’s Malay Archipelago Combat Unit) have been pretty active in the region. In spite of being active even before the formation of the Islamic State, the group pledged its allegiance to ISIS in 2013. Since then it has utilized the Malay speaking population as an asset to promulgate their agenda. By using language as a medium, the group has successfully managed to create a better solidarity among members as well as found ways to enlist new comrades on similar grounds. One of the other benefits of encouraging Malay as a language of communication, is to reach a larger sects of Malaysian and Indonesian Sunni Muslims. Releasing videos and articles in the native language only makes its impact on the cyberspace stronger.

Katibah Nusantara is not the only organization that sympathizes with the cause of the Islamic State. The seeds of the notions encouraging the Islamic State had been long implanted in Malaysia by one of the most notorious terrorist organizations in the region KMM (Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia). If one were to take a look at the ideological formulations of both KMM and the ISIS, one could easily recognize the similarities. Both the institutions vouch for transnational terrorism and aim at forming a global Islamic State. With the promotion of such identical objectives KMM could be called as the precursor of ISIS in the region. With the recent demise of Baghdadi, these sentiments are only being fueled as more and more recruits willingly sympathize with the cause.

Malaysia which enjoys a prime location in the Pacific, has to be extensively careful regarding its maritime security, in light of the rising terror groups. In the recent past, Malaysia has been accused of smuggling in illegal weapons. However, officials have denied any such claims.

Malaysia, along with its neighboring nations Indonesia and Philippines appears to be the perfect breeding ground for terrorist activities. With 61.3% of the population being predominantly Muslim, it is easy to influence the public with radical ideas in the name of jihad. A majority of the pro-ISIS sympathizers, willingly went to Iraq and Syria to become a part of the larger jihadi movement. However after the destruction of the caliphate, the returnees from the Middle East pose a greater threat to the national security, as they serve as a catalyst to instigate more extremist propaganda in the region.


In 2013, when ISIS split from Al-Qaeda, terrorist organizations worldwide were forced to pick sides. Especially the ones based in Southeast Asia. One of such groups that pledged its loyalty to ISIS was Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) An organization that has been wrecking havoc in the region by inspiring families to participate in suicide bombings, across the nation. One of such cases occurred a year ago in Surabaya when a family of six carried out a deadly suicide bomb attack in a church. What appeared to be a simple countryside family, was actually being radicalized by joint group for Islamic studies on a weekly basis. According to investigators, there were multiple families that met every Sunday to preach about Islam and in turn presented extremist views on the subject. The family which included a daughter of nine, were held responsible for carrying out the attack in a church, which injured many. A total of three such families were held accountable, and in all probability one of the families had recently returned from Syria. A similar attack took place at a police headquarters, in the same region. The attack was carried out by a family of five.

All these families bear their allegiance or have been impacted by the teachings of Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), the organization too confirms its strategy of radicalizing families in the name of jihad. However, JAD is as recent as ISIS. Both the organizations were formed around the same time and ever since then JAD has looked up to ISIS for training and financial aid. JAD is composed of nearly two dozen extremist groups that pledge its allegiance to ISIS. However, there have been disputes among two Indonesian ISIL militants based in Syria namely – Bahrumsyah, aka Abu Ibrahim [Abu Jandal] and Bahrun Naim regarding the control over the pacific rim. As per intelligence sources Bahrumsyah has been made in charge of Katibah Nusantara, which is operational from Malaysia. Whereas Bahrun Naim had taken charge of JAD. Bahrun Naim, himself had an extremely impressive background. From being a student of informatics engineering to being in charge of one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations. He is the mastermind who introduced bitcoin technology and the basics of artificial intelligence to ISIS. However, after his death in 2018 in a US air strike, the leadership of JAD has been under Aman Abdurrahman, who is currently in Indonesian custody, yet remains influential.

Apart from JAD, Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT) is also equally powerful in radicalizing entities and promoting lone wolf attacks in the region. Both these organizations work hand in hand and also enjoy the support of well networked group of terrorist organizations from the neighboring countries of Malaysia and the Philippines.

Indonesia has a 99% Sunni Muslim population. The remaining minorities are under constant threat from these extremist entities that usually attack government properties and Christian or western places of importance within the nation. Over the past 5 years, Indonesia has experienced a surge in terrorist activities as more of its youth is being radicalized by the use of social media. The arsonist masterminds, very intelligently hack into the social media networks that eventually do the damage. The local madrasas, or Islamic study centers are considered to be breeding grounds for such extremism. In the Surabaya case which was mentioned above, families as a unit are being used as agents of terror. This includes using women and children alike. In 2017, a women was sentenced to seven and a half years of prison, after having plotted to carry out a suicide bombing outside the presidential palace. It was the first time that a woman had been arrested for such a crime.

One of the most damaging ways in which the organization has chosen to break the structure of Indonesia is by attacking the governments. In May 2019, right before the declaration of the presidential election, the police forces nabbed eight ISIS inspired militants who planned to stage a suicide bomb attack, during the announcement of the results. Most of these members have been migrants from Syria and Iraq, who were inspired by the idea of fighting for their Middle Eastern brothers and sisters. However, with the downfall of the Caliphate and the loss of their most prominent leader, in all likelihood, they will be equally inspired to create a new Islamic state in their very homeland.


It would be foolish to consider that the mission of Islamic State to conquer land is only limited to Iraq and Syria. In 2017, the city of Marawi experienced something similar to what the people in Mosul would have experienced under the ISIS. The siege of Marawi is one of the best examples of the increasing power of terrorist organizations in the Philippines. In a duration of a 5 month long siege, which resulted in the loss of lives as well as property the city was completely left in ruins. The massive destruction was the work on two highly active terrorist organizations of the region – Abu Sayyaf and the Maute group, both of which have pledged their allegiance to ISIS. The ruined walls of the remaining buildings were covered with paintings and marks that read- “I love ISIS”.

As the city and the people still recover, the terrorist groups do not seem to rest. Two years after the incident, a case of suicide bomb attack rises up in January of 2019. A Roman Catholic Cathedral in Jolo, Mindanao island suffered two explosions after a couple of suicide bombers unleashed the attack. This time the militants were affiliated with Abu Sayyaf group. Soon after the attack, an illustration was made public. In which the President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte was seen kneeling down on a pile of skulls while a militant held a knife at his neck, this picture was captioned- “The fighting has just begun”. As if the horrors of bombings and large scale destruction weren’t enough, the group is also psychologically affecting the public’s notions of safety. The illustration made the general citizens question their security at the hands of the state, a tactic used to sow seeds of suspicion in order to breakdown the government.

Considering all the recent attacks, the name of one terrorist group repeatedly resurfaces- Abu Sayyaf group (ASG). However, this organization is not the only culprit. Other terrorist groups such as the Maute group are also equally to blame. But these groups used to be a part of a larger organization called the MNLF ( Moro National Liberation Front ), that used to be closely associated with Al-Qaeda and the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). After being exceptionally active in the 1990’s and the 2000’s, the group eventually fizzled out due to internal disputes. Its last known attack was reported to be in 2017, ever since which it has remained relatively dormant. The group used a form of collective leadership and vouches for the formation of a separate Muslim nation or state called as the Bangsamoro, as the group is presided over by the Moro community. Moros are followers of Islam, yet some of their practices differ from the other religious sects, hence making them a separate ethnic group. It wasn’t clear wheatear MNLF agreed with the ideologies of ISIS. The group had also changed its name to MILF (MoroIslamic liberation front) and had ties with other terror groups in the region. Both MNLF and MILF were primarily located in the island of Mindanao in southern Philippines.

The other terror groups include Abu Sayyaf group (ASG), which is notorious for carrying out kidnappings in the area. Yet in the recent past. The group has advanced enough to carry out suicide bombings and attacks in the island of Mindanao. ASG lost one of its most prominent leaders Isnilon Hapilon, during the siege of Marawi. Isnilon Hapilon began his occupation as a jihadi terrorist under MNLF. Later on he aided in forming the ASG which predominantly consisted of tausug filipo Muslims, unlike the moros. He was one of the first in 2014 to pledge his alligence to al-Baghdadi, and eventually rose in the ranks to manage the jihadist movements in the pacific rim. After the death of Hapilon, Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan has taken over the command. However, due to some differences within the group, ASG has two separate factions- one of which is based in Jolo and the other in Basilan. The faction in Basilan has pledged its allegiance to ISIS, but the one in Jolo has yet to make any definitive statement. This makes the linking of the attacks to either of the ASG groups a tough task.

Along with ASG, the other crucial terrorist group that works in the same area is the Maute group. The group has rather disillusioned beginnings, and it is unclear as to what triggered the radicalization among its key founders, yet the Mautes played an essential role in the Marawi siege. The group’s key founders – Omar and Abdullah Maute belonged to influential and well- off families in the town of Buting. During its initial stages they closely worked with the MILF, but soon disbanded and started to associate themselves with other groups in the region, one of them being the ASG. In May of 2017, Mautes took over Marawi and started their bloody regime, executing and looting people. The masterminds of the Marawi siege were Omar and Abdullah Maute, who were allegedly killed during the five month long blockade. However, there have been speculations that the prime person behind the scenes is Farhana Maute, which makes sense as the Mautes belong to a matriarchal tribe. Ever since the Marawi siege, the Mautes have been working closely with the ASG. Both the groups are notorious for kidnapping foreign nationals, mostly Indonesians and holding them for ransom.

The terrorist groups in Philippines were divided on the lines of ethnicity at the start of the decade. However, with the split of Al-Qaeda and ISIS, most organizations in the region have come together in the name of Islam, with a common goal of setting up their own caliphate. As the nation is chiefly Roman Catholic, the 5.6% of the Muslim in the region consider the government to be biased towards Christians. This instigates the terrorist groups furthermore as they repeatedly attempt to take down the “Christian” governance. The main concentration of the Muslim population lies in southern Philippines, which is geographically closer to the archipelagos of Indonesia. This close proximity of the nations and the heavy transnational involvement of terrorist groups in the region pose a major security threat.

Southeast Asia the next Caliphate?

As the command of the Caliphate dwindles in the Middle East, there can be seen a Suring sympathy in Southeast Asia. Currently ISIS exists in the form of sleeper cells in Iraq and Syria, that to face a hard time due to the counter terrorism measures taken by the government of the region. However, a Caliphate is not legitimized without a territory, the one that the organization has recently lost. Keeping in mind the siege of Marawi in Philippines , the possibility of a new Caliphate arising in southeast Asia cannot be denied. The primary nations that have been associated with the functioning of the Islamic State are Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. Recent cases have also highlighted the rising numbers of Singaporean civilians who are being inspired by the same cause. Its is vital to keep in mind that these nations are an accumulation of archipelagoes that can be easily captured. If the current terrorist factions in the region were to unite and capture even one of these islands, a new Caliphate could be easily established. Given its prime location in the Pacific, the area receives the maximum traffic in terms of trade. Disrupting healthy trade between nations, in order to serve as a means of income for the organization through piracy and abduction is possible. If in all probability one of the islands in the region were to be the next Caliphate, then weapons supply would become a cheaper alternative for the Islamic State, as well as receiving FTFs (foreign terrorist fighters) via the sea route.

However, capturing an island and declaring it as the Islamic State is not enough. Precautionary measures are to be kept in mind. An island is a small piece of land. In such a case, a mere annihilation of an island would mean the end of the Islamic State. This move would then only work in favor of global peace.

However, the chances of such a scenario manifesting would require to many factors to be taken into consideration. One of them being the assimilation of all the terror groups and lone wolves in the region and creating a strong leadership which is capable of doing so. Within a week of al-Baghdadi’s death, the organization announced its next leader- Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qureshi. As is custom, the caliph should belong to one of the families that were close to Prophet Mohamed. Little is known about Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qureshi, and little is known about his leadership qualities. So far, it hasn’t been established whether he is a namesake or an actual figurehead with powers of governance. Thus it is not difficult to imagine that there could be internal power struggles within the ISIS. In such a case, the probability of a competent leadership that consolidates the southeast Asian groups seems bleak.

But in such dire straits, would ISIS be joined by its old friend al-Qaeda? In all probability no. Both al-queada and ISIS currently face a power vacuum in their structure. However, in no way would al-Qaeda be willing to join ISIS. Post the announcement of Baghdadi’s death, it was reported that al-Qaeda celebrated the event. According to sources, the loss of such a wanted terrorists was no loss to them at all. Not to mention that the statement made by Ayman al-Zawahiri, in 16 minute long video that was posted post the split of both the organizations, clearly emphasized that Baghdadi was no longer welcome. The dislike towards Baghdadi has still been maintained and is often reflected in the hostility that the splinter groups maintain towards each other. In contrast, this does not lessen the probability of a brand new terrorist organization emerging in southeast Asia. The terrorist groups that used to work on the lines of differences and for separate causes, have now been acting under a single banner of the Islamic State. If such a thing were to occur, the effects would be equally disastrous.


Witnessing the sway that the IS has over its Southeast Asian counterparts, it would be incorrect to limit the location of the Islamic state simply to Iraq and Syria. Speculating on the possibility of a new Caliphate in Philippines, Malaysian and Indonesia does not seem far from reality. In light of the recent events, there has been a sizeable growth in the number of sympathizers of the IS. The Islamic State too, will not leave no stone unturned to regain its lost glory. This includes exploiting social media posts and financing and inspiring lone wolf attacks throughout the region. When even civilians are being radicalized and used as mediums of terror, it becomes tricky for the counter- terrorism forces to deal with them. Transnational terrorism has become a real thing and the threat is real. The question is how and who puts an end to it?

[Kritika Karmakar  is a Research Analyst at Centre for Security Studies at O.P Jindal Global University, India]

Soldiers, Civilians Hurt in Two Blasts in Southern Philippines

From BenarNews (Dec 23, 2019): Soldiers, Civilians Hurt in Two Blasts in Southern Philippines
(By Jeoffrey Maitem and Mark Navales)

Soldiers inspect the site where a grenade exploded in the southern Philippines city of Cotabato, wounding 16, Dec. 22, 2019. Mark Navales/BenarNews

Suspected Filipino militants linked to the Islamic State carried out near simultaneous grenade and bomb attacks in the southern Philippines on Sunday, leaving more than a dozen people injured, including nine soldiers, authorities said.

No one has come forward to claim responsibility, but officials said members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) group likely carried out the attacks, which took place a day before a visit to the area by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The first blast occurred around 6:00 p.m. along busy Sinsuat Avenue in Cotabato City. Sixteen people, including nine soldiers from the 5th Special Forces Battalion, were wounded, regional military spokesman Major Arvin John Encinas told BenarNews by phone.

“It was a grenade attack. The targets were our troops,” Encinas said, adding that the explosive device was thrown by a suspect as an Army truck passed by.

The explosion occurred ahead of a visit to Cotabato by President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday to distribute land titles to beneficiaries of the state’s agrarian reform program.

Encinas blamed the attack on the BIFF, a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country’s former leading separatist group that signed a peace pact with Manila and now controls an autonomous region in the south.

The government has begun integrating MILF fighters into its ranks, primarily to help it against smaller armed factions that have vowed to continue the fight for full independence.

The BIFF is one of several known groups waging that fight and has flown the black Islamic State (IS) flag.

“We could not discount their involvement but they are the only group we are confronting right now in that area,” Encinas said.

Meanwhile, in the nearby town of Libungan in North Cotabato province, suspected militants detonated a homemade bomb around 6:12 p.m. at the town center, injuring five civilians, governor Nancy Catamco told BenarNews.

“Initially recovered from the scenes were 60mm mortar shell fragments and [a] blasting cap,” Catamco said.

In April this year, a homemade bomb exploded at a packed restaurant in nearby Isulan town, also in Mindanao, leaving one dead and 17 wounded.

Richel V. Umel from Iligan City, Philippines contributed to this report.

Dawlah Islamiyah, BIFF possibly behind Cotabato, Maguindanao blasts —Westmincom

From GMA News Online (Dec 23, 2019): Dawlah Islamiyah, BIFF possibly behind Cotabato, Maguindanao blasts —Westmincom

Two terror groups in Mindanao are being eyed as possible perpetrators of the series of explosion incidents in Cotabato and Maguindanao, according to the Westerm Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

A report by GMA News stringer Ferdinandh Cabrera on GMA News' Unang Balita on Monday cited the military as saying that
the Dawlah Islamiyah and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters may have launched the attacks, considering their capacity and interest to do so.

Based on the initial investigation of the Philippine Army's 6th Infantry Division, the attackers who threw a grenade at military personnel in Cotabato City were riding-in-tandem on a motorcycle

The grenade blast occurred early evening on Sunday as soldiers were getting off an army truck to provide security assistance at a Catholic mass being held in Our Mother of Perpetual Help Cathedral.

Gunshots followed. Nine civilians and 11 soldiers were also injured.

At least 23 hurt in series of explosions in Mindanao

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 23, 2019): At least 23 hurt in series of explosions in Mindanao (By Martin Sadongdong)

Three days before Christmas Day, a series of explosions rocked Cotabato City and the provinces of Cotabato and Maguindanao on Sunday night which resulted in the wounding of at least 23 individuals.

Major Arvin Encinas, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom), said the first explosion occurred at the corner of Sinsuat Avenue and Quezon Avenue in Cotabato City, near a bank and the cathedral at around 6 p.m.

Encinas said elements of the Philippine Army’s Fifth Special Forces Battalion were patrolling in the area aboard a military truck when three unidentified suspects lobbed a grenade at them.

The troops engaged the suspects in a brief firefight but the attackers managed to escape onboard a motorcycle. Encinas described the suspects as teenagers.

In an update, Encinas said 15 persons, including nine soldiers were hurt in the attack.

The WestMinCom said they were eyeing the Dawlah Islamiyah (DI) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) as the possible suspects in the incident.

Then at around 6:30 p.m., a suspected improvised explosive (IED) device suddenly exploded at Pedro Colina (PC) Hill, Barangay Rosary Heights 1 also in Cotabato City, about 3.6 kilometers from the site of the first grenade attack.

A civilian who was just passing by the area was reportedly wounded in the incident while authorities said the suspects were also riding on a motorcycle.

The military has yet to establish whether the two explosions were connected.

Two explosions also occured at Barangay Poblacion in Libungan, North Cotabato between 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. where at least six civilians got hurt.

The last explosion was reported at a site of a trade fair in Sitio Tekwa National Highway in North Upi, Maguindanao around 9 p.m. where a civilian was wounded.

The military was coordinating with the police in investigating the series of explosions, which happened more than a week before the martial law in the entire Mindanao island is lifted.

Two years since its implementation, the martial law will be lifted in Mindanao island on December 31.

Two police officers wounded in an ambush in Iloilo hours after declaration of ceasefire

From the Cebu Daily News (Dec 23, 2019): Two police officers wounded in an ambush in Iloilo hours after declaration of ceasefire (By Froilan Gallardo)December 23,2019 - 03:52 PM

Two police officers were wounded after communist rebels ambushed their vehicle on Monday, December 23, 2019, only hours after the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) declared a 15-day ceasefire for the Christmas holidays.

Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson, Major Patrick Martinez, said the policemen had
pulled out from their detachment in Barangay Singon, Tubungan town in Iloilo when rebels detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) at their vehicle at 9:40 a.m.

Martinez said two policemen were wounded and were carried by fellow officers away from the ambush site staged by more than 50 New People’s Army rebels.

He said the police had pulled out from their detachment in Barangay Singon after PNP acting Chief Archie Francisco Gamboa declared a suspension of police operations (SOPO) against the communist rebels.

Read more: Duterte declares ceasefire with communist rebels

Malacanang announced on Monday dawn that President Rodrigo Duterte had declared ceasefire with the Communist rebels for the Christmas holidays.

This after the Communist Party of the Philippines instructed the National Democratic Front that it had declared a suspension of military operations against the AFP and PNP nationwide.

President Duterte declared the ceasefire to take effect nationwide and shall be effective from 12:00 midnight of December 23, 2019 until 11:59 p.m. of January 7, 2020 or for a period of 15 days.

Duterte also directed the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to draft their own guidelines in the implementation of the SOPO and suspension of military operations (SOMO) against the rebels.

The NDF, on the other hand, said their ceasefire order should take effect after the AFP and PNP would declare the Suspension of Military Operations (SOMO) and Suspension of Police Operations (SOPO) to all its military and police units nationwide.

Palace belies report Duterte on Reds' hit list, says Esperon fed with wrong info

From ABS-CBN (Dec 23, 2019): Palace belies report Duterte on Reds' hit list, says Esperon fed with wrong info (By Arianne Merez)

President Rodrigo Duterte. File

MANILA- Malacañang dismissed on Monday reports of President Rodrigo Duterte's inclusion on a hit list supposedly made by communist rebels, even after the government's national security adviser backed the report.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon was
"fed with wrong information" over the hit list, asserting that Communist leader Jose Maria Sison already denied it.

"That report is false news. That has been denied by Jose Maria Sison himself, so how can we react if that is false news?"
Panelo said.

Esperon last week claimed that he and President Duterte are included in an alleged hit list by communist groups.

Aside from Esperon, the Presidential Security Group also said last week that it received information on threats on President Duterte's life as the December 26 anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) drew closer.

Esperon claims CPP-NPA hit list includes him, Duterte
Top target? PSG confirms Reds' threat to Duterte's life

Sison, however, denied the existence of the hit list as he alleged that Esperon only "aims to sow intrigue in order to sabotage the planned resumption of formal peace talks."

"While the NPA (New Peoples' Army) keeps no 'hit list' supposedly with Esperon’s name in it, the people will not fail to remember his many crimes and may seek justice with their revolutionary army," Sison said.

But even if the Palace believes that Duterte is excluded from the supposed hit list of the rebels, Panelo admitted that it is likely that the CPP wants to "eliminate" government officials.

"The communist rebels will always want this government to fall...It is not far-fetched that they would want to eliminate officials that are running this government but we are prepared for that," Panelo said.

Army disposes recovered rebel IEDs in Isabela

From the Manila Standard (Dec 23, 2019): Army disposes recovered rebel IEDs in Isabela (By Brenda Jocson)

Gamu, Isabela—The Army’s 5th Infantry (Star) Division spearheaded the disposal of numerous improvised explosive devices (IEDs) recovered from the communist New People’s Army at the 5th Division Training School at Camp Melchor F Dela Cruz here.

Maj. Gen. Pablo Lorenzo, 5ID commander, said the IEDs included 22 anti-tank landmines and 10 anti-personnel mines with power galvanometer and detonating cords.

They were recovered during different tactical engagements of 502nd Infantry Brigade and 95th Infantry Battalion against the rebels, he said.

Lorenzo said the NPA rebels belong to the Central Front of Komiteng Rehiyong-Cagayan Valley in Central Isabela province particularly in the municipalities of San Mariano, Benito Soliven and the remote areas of Ilagan City.

According to the 5ID Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team, the IEDs are very critical and sensitive that exposure to heat, shock and friction may trigger their explosion.

Lorenzo said the immediate disposal of these explosives is necessary to prevent unintentional damage to life and properties.

“The disposal of the recovered IEDs will save many lives especially the civilian populace in the area,” Lorenzo added.

He also emphasized that the use of IEDs is prohibited under the international and national laws due to its “uncontrollable and devastating effect to humanity.”

He urged the communist NPA members to stop using IEDs and submit themselves to the government that they may live peacefully together with their families again.

Meanwhile, a former rebel only identified as Ka Ronie was reportedly responsible in making the IEDs that were disposed.

Ka Ronie was recruited by the NPA due to his knowledge on electronic circuitry, the military said.

Police said the NPA bomb expert was able to fabricate blasting caps to aid the NPA’s techniques, tactics and procedures in warfare, they added.

Ka Ronie was a member of the Demolition Training Team trained by the NPA in manufacturing the recovered IEDs used to destroy private properties and government flagship projects to continue their extortion activities. He was teary-eyed when he encouraged his former comrades who are still in the hinterlands to surrender.