Posts Tagged ‘Duterte’

Philippine President Duterte Insists He Won’t Listen To Congress, Supreme Court — Despite the Constitution giving them oversight, even during martial law

May 28, 2017
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An Air Force helicopter gunship fires a rocket at Maute positions in the continuing assault to retake control of some areas of Marawi City yesterday. AP

JOLO  , Philippines – President Duterte has vowed to ignore the Supreme Court and Congress as he enforces martial law across Mindanao despite the Constitution giving them oversight.

Duterte on Tuesday imposed martial law in Mindanao, home to 20 million people, following deadly clashes in the mostly Muslim-populated Marawi City involving the Maute group which, he said, was trying to establish a caliphate for the Islamic State group.

“Until the police and the Armed Forces say the Philippines is safe, this martial law will continue. I will not listen to others. The Supreme Court, Congress, they are not here,” Duterte told soldiers on Saturday.

“Are they the ones dying and losing blood, bleeding, hemorrhaging because there is no help, no reinforcement? It’s not they,” he said.

The 1987 Constitution imposes limits on martial law to prevent a repeat of the abuses carried out under the regime of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was deposed by the people power revolution in 1986.

The Constitution requires Congress to approve a president’s declaration of martial law, and limits military rule for 60 days. If a president wants to extend it, he or she must again get congressional endorsement.

The Supreme Court (SC) can also rule on martial law’s legality.

“The Supreme Court will say they will examine into the factual (basis). Why I don’t know. They are not soldiers. They do not know what is happening on the ground,” Duterte said.

A day after declaring martial law, Duterte described the nine years of military rule under Marcos as “very good,” and said his would be similar.

Duterte also told soldiers on Friday they would be allowed to conduct searches and arrests without warrants.

“During martial law, your commanders, you, you can arrest any person, search any house. There is no more warrant needed,” Duterte told troops.

Duterte’s comments contradicted a government statement released on Saturday to explain martial law.

“Warrants of arrest or search warrants should be issued,” the statement from the government’s information agency said.

“No person may be arrested and detained without orders coming from these civil courts.”

Duterte has overwhelming support in Congress, which this week is widely expected to endorse his initial declaration of martial law.

Looming clash

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, however, on Friday expressed concerns about martial law, saying the sins of martial law during the dictatorship of the late Ferdinand Marcos could possibly be repeated under the current martial law.

“Given the present day, when the possibility of history repeating itself looms imminent, no cause requires your commitment as much as the cause of human rights, justice, and democracy,” Sereno was quoted as saying in her speech during the commencement exercise at the Ateneo de Manila University last Friday.

“Today, people’s fundamental human rights and freedoms, the core of our democracy, face grave and blatant threats. The culture of impunity is on the rise. People are pressured to favor the easy choice over the right choice: expediency over due process; convenient labeling over fairness; the unlawful termination of human life over rehabilitation,” she further stated.

But Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II yesterday questioned her opinion, stressing that statements publicly made by Sereno might be uncalled for.

“I believe such statements are premature and imprudent on the part of the Chief Justice,” he told The STAR.

Aguirre said that Duterte’s declaration of martial law to neutralize the Maute terror group after its occupation of Marawi City is expected to be submitted for judicial review of the SC through petition by critics.

The justice secretary said prudence dictates that members of the high court, including the chief justice, must refrain from commenting on legal questions and issues up for SC review, adding that public statements by magistrates could be used as ground for inhibition in cases.

Aguirre believes Sereno’s position should better be included in a magistrate’s written opinion on the issue only after submission of arguments, hearing and deliberations in the high tribunal.

The SC has yet to lay down guidelines on the use of executive power to declare martial law after the Marcos regime.

Still no implementing guidelines

One week into the declaration of martial law in Mindanao through Proclamation 216, no ground implementation guidelines have been issued by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to the two major military commands in the area, the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) and the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom).

“(Eastmincom) is awaiting guidelines from the (AFP) on how this will be implemented on the ground,” the Eastmincom said in a statement yesterday.

“We are yet to get a written guidance as to how the declaration will translate to our operations on the ground, especially here in Western Mindanao, where all threat groups are present,” the Westmincom said in a separate statement.

“The guidelines will come out soon. They’re working on them,” Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea told The STAR.

Eastmincom officials said they have remained on heightened alert since May 11, when joint AFP-Philippine National Police operations encountered the group of Isnilon Hapilon in Marawi City.

While noting volatile situation in its area, which jurisdiction includes Marawi City, Westmincom assured the public it would use the current mandate to boost its campaign against terrorism, in accordance with the law and with respect to human rights and the International Humanitarian Law.

‘Misguided commentaries’

Meanwhile, Malacañang yesterday lashed at critics of the Mindanao martial law who feared it could lead to abuses and curtailment of civil and political rights.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella dismissed the criticisms as “misguided commentaries.”

“The President’s focus is on addressing the terrorist threat in Mindanao,” Abella said in a statement yesterday.

“He is committed to succeeding in this mission and to restoring peace and order so that other people throughout Mindanao can fully participate in our nation’s development.” — AFP, Edu Punay, Edith Rgalado, Alexis Romero

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/05/29/1704646/duterte-wont-listen-congress-sc-ml

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Philippine President Duterte vows to ignore Supreme Court on martial law

May 28, 2017
/ 04:26 PM May 28, 2017
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Duterte on Tuesday imposed martial law in the Mindanao region, home to 20 million people, following deadly clashes in a mostly Muslim-populated city involving militants he said were trying to establish a caliphate for the Islamic State group.

“Until the police and the armed forces say the Philippines is safe, this martial law will continue. I will not listen to others. The Supreme Court, Congress, they are not here,” Duterte told soldiers on Saturday.

“Are they the ones dying and losing blood, bleeding, hemorrhaging because there is no help, no reinforcement? It’s not them.”

The 1987 Constitution imposes limits on martial law to prevent a repeat of the abuses carried out under the regime of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was deposed by a famous “People Power” revolution the previous year.

The Constitution requires Congress to approve a president’s declaration of martial law, and limits military rule for 60 days. If a president wants to extend it, he or she must again get congressional endorsement.

The Supreme Court can also rule on martial law’s legality.

“The Supreme Court will say they will examine into the factual (basis). Why I don’t know. They are not soldiers. They do not know what is happening on the ground,” Duterte said Saturday on Jolo, a southern island that is under martial law.

A day after declaring martial law, Duterte described the nine years of military rule under Marcos as “very good”, and said his would be similar.

Duterte also told soldiers on Friday they would be allowed to conduct searches and arrests without warrants.

“During martial law, your commanders, you, you can arrest any person, search any house. There is no more warrant needed,” Duterte told troops on Friday.

Duterte’s comments contradicted a government statement released on Saturday to explain martial law.

“Warrants of arrest or search warrants should be issued,” the statement from the government’s information agency said.

“No person may be arrested and detained without orders coming from these civil courts.”

Duterte has overwhelming support in Congress, which is this week widely expected to endorse his initial declaration of martial law.

However the Supreme Court chief justice, Maria Lourdes Sereno, on Friday expressed concerns about martial law./rga

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Friday, May 26, 2017

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Lorenzana said the confrontation opened Tuesday afternoon, when government forces attempted to arrest a senior leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group, an extremist organization with ties to the Islamic State. They had learned Isnilon Hapilon was in the area, but according to Lorenzana, the military had not expected him to be backed up by “more or less 100 fighters” — many of whom were members of another ISIS-linked organization, the Maute Group.

More than 100 gunmen responded to the raid by burning buildings and conducting other diversionary tactics, officials said, adding that thousands of residents have fled Marawi.

 (with links to related reports)

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Philippine President Duterte has no time for ‘misguided’ comments on martial law

May 28, 2017

MANILA — As senators are to be briefed on Monday by defense and security officials tasked to justify President Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao, Malacañang has made it clear that the Chief Executive has no time to entertain “misguided commentaries from critics” as he is focused on stopping the terrorist threat in the region.

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“The President’s focus is on addressing the terrorist threat in Mindanao, not on the misguided commentaries of critics,” presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said on Sunday.

“He is committed to succeed in this mission and to restoring peace and order so that people throughout Mindanao can fully participate in our nation’s development,” Abella said in a statement.

Apparently, the Palace too is focused on making sure it could communicate accurately and immediately about the government’s offensive against the Maute Group which has been battling government forces since attacking Marawi City last week.

The Presidential Communications Operation Group (PCOO) has put up a Mindanao Hour Communications Center in Davao City that will give fresh and daily updates on the government’s offensive. It will also appoint a civilian Maranao spokesperson “to address the Lanao region on the government’s ongoing offensive against the Maute terror group in Marawi City.”

The executive branch is also seeking to inform senators about the necessity of martial law in Mindanao and is scheduled to give them a security briefing on Monday (May 29).

Expected to brief the senators are National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Eduardo Año and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, according to Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said on Sunday the security briefing “will achieve a lot.”

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“Senators can ask questions addressed to the martial law civilian administrator (Secretary Lorenzana) and the implementer (Gen. Año) about the report and details of its implementation. By pursuing the questions we have in our minds, we will be guided accordingly in forming our opinion as to the political and legal issues concerning the martial law declaration,” Pimentel said in a text message.

Prior to Monday’s briefing, Pimentel was scheduled Sunday night to meet with members of the Senate majority bloc to thresh out the President’s report to Congress in justifying his proclamation.

But Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV insisted President Duterte did not have any justification for extending martial law beyond Lanao del Sur since he said there was “no single incident cited that occurred” outside of Lanao del Sur. He added that presidential peace adviser Silvestre Bello has assured the Communist Party of the Philippines and its political arm, the National Democratic that the New People’s Army would not be targeted.

“I would push first for the joint session so the proclamation could be deliberated and decided on in accordance with the Constitution. Then I would surely vote for its revocation,” Trillanes said in a text message.

He said his counter proposal to the Palace was for it to “realign some of their intelligence funds to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police so that they could intensify their intelligence operations so they could hunt down the remnants of these terrorist cells without hampering the way of life of Filipinos.”

Sen. Francis Escudero, in a radio program on Sunday, said he would clarify with Año and other officials their earlier statements that under martial law, authorities could arrest people without warrants, close down media organisations and take over media.

“Maybe they are not familiar with what is written in the 1987 Constitution,” Escudero saying that he was concerned with defense officials’ statements that under martial law, authorities could take over media automatically.

“There are situations that they could do that and only under the period that this was needed because freedom of expression does not stop as guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. Even in the middle of martial law,” Escudero said.

In the same program, Sen. Panfilo Lacson emphasized the need for other branches of government to guard to against “potential abuses” in the implementation of martial law.  He expressed concern over Ano’s statements that authorities could take over public utilities and private entities as Supreme Court had already ruled against such actions.  SF

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Vietnam is in a pivotal position as it balances the US and China — Vietnam’s PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc Will Meet President Trump at the White House May 31

May 28, 2017

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Vietnam’s PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc (left) and U.S. President Donald Trump. Getty Images

HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam could hardly have asked for more: a U.S. warship challenging Chinese claims in the South China Sea, a meeting at the White House and six new coastal patrol boats.

All are signs of a U.S. commitment which Vietnam had feared was waning under President Donald Trump just as the Southeast Asian country has emerged as the most forceful opponent of China’s claim to one of the world’s most important seaways.

But uncertain over how enduring U.S. support will be and wary of relying on any ally, Vietnam is just as carefully cultivating ties with ancient foe China.

“Vietnam doesn’t want an imbalance of power in the region that could lead to war,” said Tran Cong Truc, a former head of the National Boundary Commission who spent decades defending Vietnam’s maritime claims.

The meeting with Trump next Wednesday is a coup for Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, who will be the first Southeast Asian leader to visit the White House under the new administration.

It reflected calls, letters, diplomatic contacts and lower level visits that started long before Trump took office in Washington, where Vietnam retains a lobbyist at $30,000 a month.

Just as important symbolically for Vietnam this week was having a U.S. warship sail close to an artificial island being built by China in the South China Sea, where Beijing’s extensive claims are disputed by Vietnam and four other countries.

Vietnamese officials and foreign envoys familiar with Hanoi’s position said it had been lobbying hard for what former enemy the United States calls a “freedom of navigation” mission.

Further underlining U.S. support, the United States delivered six coastal patrol vessels to Vietnam this week.

“Vietnam’s future prosperity depends upon a stable and peaceful maritime environment,” U.S. Ambassador Ted Osius said.

Lonely Voice

Such words help to ease concerns in Vietnam at being a lonely voice in challenging Beijing in the South China Sea, particularly since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has grown closer to China.

Military ties between the United States and Vietnam were forged under the Obama administration, but even more important was the strategic Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact.

Vietnam was disappointed when Trump ditched that deal and focused trade policy on reducing deficits – Vietnam’s $32 billion surplus with the United States was the sixth biggest last year.

Vietnamese nerves were jangled further by Trump’s recent coziness with Chinese President Xi Jinping in trying to tackle North Korea’s nuclear program.

“The total fixation on North Korea had Vietnam quite worried that the South China Sea would be left wide open,” said Carl Thayer, a Vietnam expert at Australia’s University of New South Wales.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Katrina Adams said “the U.S.-Vietnam partnership is a critical component of U.S. foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific region”.

But a former senior U.S. official said Trump could be expected to complain to Vietnam’s prime minister about the size of its trade surplus. Under Trump budget plans, Vietnam could also find U.S. military donations becoming loans instead.

In the face of the uncertainty since Trump took office, Hanoi has been paying as much attention to Beijing as to Washington.

Image result for Metal Shark patrol boats, photos

Vietnam’s Coast Guard recently took custody of U.S.-Built patrol boats

 

President Tran Dai Quang combined a state visit with his attendance at China’s Belt and Road summit. Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong, arguably the most powerful man in Vietnam, was in Beijing days before Trump’s inauguration.

After both those visits, the countries emphasized their readiness to keep the peace in the South China Sea, through which some $5 trillion in trade flows each year.

Just as telling, the Vietnamese coast guard sent a vessel on a visit to China for the first time early this month.

“‘Simultaneously cooperate and fight’ is a very practical policy,” said Truc. “Vietnam never kneels or surrenders before China’s open violation of its legitimate rights, but it does not give China any excuse to use its power to create conflict.”

For graphic on rival claims in the South China Sea, click: http://tmsnrt.rs/1GHW1LC

For graphic on U.S.-Vietnam trade, click: http://tmsnrt.rs/2r1vBEH

(Additional reporting by Mai Nguyen in Hanoi, Greg Torode in Hong Kong, David Brunnstrom and Mike Stone in Washington; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Note: President Donald J. Trump will welcome Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc of Vietnam to the White House on May 31.

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The U.S. Air Force's WC-135 Constant Phoenix sniffer plane in a file photo. (Yonhap)

The U.S. Air Force’s WC-135 Constant Phoenix sniffer plane in a file photo. (Yonhap)

An SU-30 fighter jet

An SU-30 fighter jet CREDIT: EPA

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China has built islands by reclamation of sand and coral and has militarized them for People’s Liberationa Army (PLA) use. Seen here, Chinese structures and an airstrip on the man-made Subi Reef at the Spratlys group of islands are shown from the Philippine Air Force C-130 transport plane of the Philippine Air Force during the visit to the Philippine-claimed Thitu Island by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces Chief Gen. Eduardo Ano and other officials off the disputed South China Sea in western Philippines Friday, April 21, 2017. Philippine President Duterte on Friday, May 19, 2017, described this as “some kind of armed garrison.” Credit Francis Malasig/Pool Photo via AP — China has now occupied and built up by reclamation seven small reefs and atolls that have been made ready for military use.

 (Smart money is on China right now)

FILE - Vietnam People's Navy personnel carry their country's national flag.

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FILE photo p rovided by Filipino fisherman Renato Etac —  A Chinese Coast Guard boat approaches Filipino fishermen near Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. Scarborough Shoal has always been part of the Philippines, by international law. China says it is happy to control fishing in the South China Sea. Credit: Renato Etac

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For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

Philippines: Lawmakers want inquiry on rice buffer stocks

May 28, 2017

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Under House Resolution 993, Camarines Sur Rep. L-Ray Villafuerte said the inquiry in aid of legislation is important to ensure adequate and affordable rice supply during the traditional lean months. File

MANILA, Philippines – An administration lawmaker wants the House of Representatives to conduct an inquiry on the “true state” of rice buffer stock or inventory in warehouses following the government’s plan to import the staple.

Under House Resolution 993, Camarines Sur Rep. L-Ray Villafuerte said the inquiry in aid of legislation is important to ensure adequate and affordable rice supply during the traditional lean months.

He said “proactive measures” must be drawn up as he cited the decision of Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco to import rice through the government-to-private sector (G2P) arrangement.

The lawmaker said government and private traders’ rice stocks would be included in the inquiry, along with households.

Evasco announced last May 16 the recommendation by the National Food Authority Council (NFAC) – which he heads – for the NFA to import rice for purposes of augmenting the food agency’s buffer stocks.

The G2P system has been approved in lieu of the government-to-government (G2G) scheme.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/05/28/1704344/inquiry-rice-buffer-stock-sought

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2,000 civilians trapped as fighting rages in Philippine city — Atrocities including murdering women and a child reported

May 28, 2017

AFP

Fighting between militants linked to Isis and Filipino forces continues in Marawi city.

Fighting between militants linked to Isis and government forces began after an attempt to arrest a veteran Filipino militant. Photograph: Francis R. Malasig/EPA

MARAWI (PHILIPPINES) (AFP) – Two thousand fearful civilians were trapped on Sunday inside a southern Philippine city where troops are battling Islamist militants, authorities said, as the death toll from almost a week of fighting neared 100.

The military intensified a bombing campaign on parts of Marawi on Mindanao island, one of the biggest Muslim cities in the mainly Catholic nation, as it accused the gunmen of atrocities including murdering women and a child.

The initial fighting prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law on Tuesday across the southern third of the Philippines to quell what he said was a fast-growing threat from terrorists linked to the Islamic State (IS) group.

Most of the city’s 200,000 residents have fled because of the fighting, but 2,000 remain trapped in areas controlled by the militants, according to Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesman for the provincial crisis management committee.

“They have been sending us text messages, calling our hotline, requesting us to send rescue teams but we cannot simply go to areas which are inaccessible to us,” Adiong told AFP.

“They want to leave. They are afraid for their safety. Some are running out of food to eat. They fear they will be hit by bullets, by airstrikes,” he said.

The military announced on Saturday, the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, that it would step up the bombing.

“In as much as we would like to avoid collateral damage, these rebels are forcing the hand of government by hiding and holding out inside private homes, government buildings and other facilities,” said military spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla.

“Their refusal to surrender is holding the city captive. Hence, it is now increasingly becoming necessary to use more surgical airstrikes to clear the city and to bring this rebellion to a quicker end.”

The militants have killed at least 19 civilians, including three women and a child who were found dead near a university, regional military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jo-ar Herrera told AFP.

“These are civilians, women. These terrorists are anti-people,” Herrera said.

An AFP photographer saw eight bodies dumped off a bridge on the outskirts of Marawi on Sunday, with local residents identifying them as employees of a rice mill and a medical college.

It was unclear whether those eight were included in the military’s count of civilian deaths.

Fifteen soldiers, two policemen and 61 militants have died in the fighting, according to authorities. This brings the combined official death toll to at least 97.

– IS flags –

The violence began when dozens of gunmen went on a rampage throughout Marawi in response to an attempt by security forces to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, a veteran Filipino militant regarded as the local leader of IS.

The United States regards Hapilon as one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists and has offered a bounty of $5 million for his capture.

The gunmen on Tuesday planted black IS flags, took a priest and up to 14 other people hostage from a church, and set fire to buildings. Authorities said Saturday the fate of those hostages remained unknown.

Duterte and military chiefs have said most of the militants belong to the local Maute group, which has declared allegiance to IS and which the government estimates has about 260 armed followers.

Duterte has said local criminals are also backing the Maute in Marawi.

Cooperation between Islamist militants, criminals and corrupt politicians is common across Mindanao, where a Muslim separatist rebellion has claimed more than 120,000 lives since the 1970s.

The main Muslim rebel groups have signed accords with the government aimed at forging a final peace, giving up their separatist ambitions in return for autonomy.

The Maute, Abu Sayyaf and other small hardline groups are not interested in negotiating and have in recent years looked to IS to help them.

Duterte said Saturday he was prepared to enforce martial law for as long as was necessary to end the terrorist threat, and even ignore constitutionally mandated safeguards such as Supreme Court and congressional oversight.

by Ted ALJIBE
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Death Toll in Philippines’ Fight With Islamist Rebels Reaches 85 While Fighting Maute in Marawi

May 28, 2017

AFP

Official death toll from week of fighting rises to at least 85 as militants clash with security forces in Muslim-majority city

 A woman calls out to her relatives after identifying bodies dumped off a cliff along the highway leading to Marawi on Sunday.
A woman calls out to her relatives after identifying bodies dumped off a cliff along the highway leading to Marawi on Sunday. Photograph: Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images

Islamist militants locked in street-to-street battles with security forces in a southern Philippine city have killed 19 civilians, the military said Sunday, bringing the official death toll from nearly a week of fighting to at least 85.

The violence prompted the president, Rodrigo Duterte, to declare martial law on Tuesday across the southern third of the Philippines to quell what he said was a fast-growing threat of militants linked to the Islamic State group.

Authorities said the militants had killed 19 civilians in Marawi, a mostly Muslim-populated city of 200,000 people. These included three women and a child who were found dead near a university.

“These are civilians, women. These terrorists are anti-people. We found their bodies while conducting rescue operations [on Saturday],” regional military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jo-ar Herrera said.

An Agence France-Presse photographer saw another eight bodies by a road in the outskirts of Marawi on Sunday, with local residents identifying them as employees of a rice mill and a medical college.

Fighting between militants linked to Isis and Filipino forces continues in Marawi city.
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Fighting between militants linked to Isis and government forces began after an attempt to arrest a veteran Filipino militant. Photograph: Francis R. Malasig/EPA

Herrera said the military had yet to investigate the reported deaths.

The violence began when dozens of gunmen went on a rampage throughout Marawi after security forces attempted to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, a veteran Filipino militant regarded as the local leader of Isis.

The gunmen planted black Isis flags, took a priest and up to 14 other people hostage from a church, and set fire to buildings.

Thirteen soldiers, two policemen and 51 militants have died in the fighting, according to authorities. This brings the combined official death toll to at least 85.

Most of the city’s residents have fled because of the fighting, which has seen the military heavily bomb residential areas where the militants were believed to be hiding.

The military announced on Saturday, the start of the Holy month of Ramadan, that it would intensify the bombing campaign.

“In as much as we would like to avoid collateral damage, these rebels are forcing the hand of government by hiding and holding out inside private homes, government buildings and other facilities,” military spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla said.

“Their refusal to surrender is holding the city captive. Hence, it is now increasingly becoming necessary to use more surgical airstrikes to clear the city and to bring this rebellion to a quicker end.”

Duterte and military chiefs have said most of the militants belong to the local Maute group, which they estimate has about 260 armed followers and has declared allegiance to Isis.

But Duterte has said local criminals are backing the Maute in Marawi.

© AFP | Fighting between Islamist militants and Philippine security forces in the southern city of Marawi has entered its sixth day, with most of the city’s residents forced to flee

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Philippines Says Militants Linked to the Islamic State Group Apparently Killed 16 Civilians — Some for “betrayal of faith”

May 28, 2017

MARAWI, Philippines — Philippine troops found the bodies of 16 civilians in the streets as they fought Sunday to drive out militants linked to the Islamic State group who have occupied parts of a southern city. The overall death toll was 92.

The dead civilians included a group of four men, three women and a child who were found near a road close to the Mindanao State University in Marawi, said military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla.

Eight other men were found gunned down and thrown in a shallow ravine early Sunday in Marawi’s Emi village, said police officer Jamail Mangadang. A paper sign attached to one of the men indicated the victims “betrayed their faith,” he said.

Padilla said 61 militants have been killed together with 11 soldiers and four police since Tuesday, when a failed raid to capture one of Asia’s top militants triggered an attack on the city.

ISIS flag in Marawi

ISIS flag in Marawi

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Troops were pressing their assaults on the militants Sunday, he said.

“We’re also focusing on house-to-house clearing of areas and rescuing trapped residents,” Padilla told The Associated Press by phone from Manila, the capital. Troops rescued about 100 trapped civilians from their homes Saturday, he said.

A provincial official, Zia Alonto Adiong, said more than 2,200 civilian stranded in their homes by street fighting have been sending cellphone messages asking to be rescued and brought to evacuation centers. They were also reporting widespread damage in the city of 200,000 people.

The violence prompted President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday to declare 60 days of martial law in the southern Philippines, where a Muslim separatist rebellion has raged for decades. But the recent violence has raised fears that extremism could be growing as smaller militant groups unify and align themselves with the Islamic State group.

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Bodies of Civilians Dumped Near Philippines City Besieged by Islamists

MARAWI CITY, Philippines — Bodies of what appeared to be executed civilians were found in a ravine outside a besieged Philippine city on Sunday as a six-day occupation by Islamist rebels resisting a military onslaught took a more sinister turn.

The eight dead men, most of them shot in the head and some with hands tied behind their backs, were laborers who were stopped by Islamic State-linked militants on the outskirts of Marawi City while trying to flee clashes, according to police.

Nine spent bullet casings were found on a blood-stained patch of road at the top of the ravine. Attached to one of the bodies was a sign that said “Munafik” (traitor).

The discovery confirms days of speculation that Maute rebels had killed civilians during a bloody takeover of Marawi City, that the military believes is aimed at winning the Maute recognition from the Islamic State group in the Middle East as a Southeast Asian affiliate.

The army deployed additional ground troops over the weekend and dispatched helicopters to carry out rocket strikes on Maute positions as fighters held buildings and a bridge deep inside a predominantly Muslim city where few civilians remained.

At least 41 militants were killed and 13 military as of Saturday, according to the army. The number of civilian dead was unknown.

The fierce resistance of the Maute gunmen and the apparent executions of civilians will add to growing fears that subscribers to Islamic State’s radical ideology are determined to establish a presence in the southern Philippines, with the support of extremists from Indonesia and Malaysia.

(For a graphic on Islamic State-linked groups in Philippine south click http://tmsnrt.rs/2rYIHTj)

Marawi police officer Jamail C Mangadang told Reuters the eight men found dead were carpenters who were part of an evacuation convoy stopped by rebels late on Saturday.

Recalling information provided by their manager, Mangadang said the victims were pulled off a truck because they were unable to cite verses of the Koran, the Islamic Holy text.

“We heard gunfire, although I’m not sure if it was the same people who were shot,” he said at the scene.

“Early in the morning, at 08.20, there are civilians, concerned citizens, who said ‘can you verify these dead bodies?’.”

DAYS-LONG BATTLE

Fierce battles restarted on Sunday as ground troops engaged Maute fighters with heavy gunfire. Plumes of smoke were seen on the horizon and helicopters fired at least eight rockets on rebel positions.

A surveillance drone circled the sky above Marawi City. Some civilians left on foot, others were seen tying white cloths to poles to distinguish themselves from militants as soldiers huddled behind armored vehicles slowly advanced.

An ambulance was seen speeding away from the fighting and soldiers said a captured militant was inside.

Tens of thousands of people have fled Marawi since Tuesday, when militants went on the rampage seizing a school, a hospital, and a cathedral.

Christians were taken hostage, according to church leaders, and more than 100 inmates, among them militants, were freed when rebels took over two jails.

Zia Alonto Adiong, a local politician who is coordinating efforts to get people out of the city, said there were bodies of dead civilians in Marawi. He criticized the military for conducting air strikes and for hampering efforts to evacuate civilians.

“Some have no food at all. Some fear for their lives,” he said. “This is a conflict that has gone beyond proportion. The magnitude of the degree of the damage and the people that are affected … it’s really massive.”

The violence erupted in the moments after a failed attempt by security forces to capture Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of a radical faction of another extremist group, who the government believes is Islamic State’s point-man in the Philippines.

The military is certain the Maute are protecting Hapilon and had narrowed down his location. Hapilon leads a radical faction of another Mindanao-based group, the Abu Sayyaf.

The little-known Maute group has staged similar, days-long sieges on Mindanao island but none on the scale of Marawi, where witnesses said flags resembling those of Islamic State had been flown and some men were wearing black headbands.

The Maute group last year killed 14 people in a bombing in the president’s home city, and its battlefield capability has been a serious challenge to a military that has far greater numbers and firepower.

Another concern for the government was the discovery of foreign fighters with the Maute, among them Indonesians and Malaysians, suggesting what was once a domestic problem could mushroom into a larger regional security threat.

(Additional reporting by Erik De Castro in Marawi City and Manuel Mogato in MANILA; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Michael Perry)

Philippine Military Used Some Heavy Firepower on Islamic Rebels

May 27, 2017
Government troops patrol a deserted street in Marawi City as planes and helicopters bombed positions of Maute fighters yesterday. Civilians waved white flags from their windows to show they were not combatants as soldiers fought to wrest control of the city from gunmen linked to the Islamic State. AFP

MANILA, Philippines – The military unleashed heavy firepower – including guided rockets fired from helicopters – for the first time yesterday on Maute positions in Marawi City in a bid to end the siege by the terror group once and for all.

This came amid growing confidence that the location of the man believed to be the leader of the Islamic State (IS)-inspired fighters, Isnilon Hapilon, has been pinpointed in the city.

“We are trying to use our maximum force,” said Maj. Gen. Carlito Galvez, chief of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom).

“The main purpose of the offensive is to suppress the lawlessness and to maintain normalcy in Marawi so that our people here, our countrymen, can return, especially by Ramadan,” he said.

He said the presence of the terrorists in their midst was preventing Muslim residents of the city from peacefully observing Ramadan.

“It is in this light that there is a need to deliberately employ forces and air assets to target with precision selected, identified and already isolated terrorist locations,” Galvez said.

He said even Muslim soldiers deferred their observance of Ramadan so they could help defeat the terrorists and restore normalcy in the city and in the rest of Mindanao.

“Our Muslim soldiers for now need to give their share of sacrifices in order to make sure that Islam believers from Marawi can soon go back to their homes and observe Ramadan,” the Westmincom chief said.

“Our Muslim soldiers who are in Marawi need to sacrifice for now and defer their religious practice until we can address the situation in Marawi,” he pointed out.

Galvez said civilians are enduring “extreme deprivation” because government services are unavailable and shops are closed.

“These terrorist atrocities continue to sow terror and confusion even to non-combatant Muslims and Christians,” he said in a statement.

Ramadan, Islam’s holy month of fasting and prayer, began yesterday. It has special significance in Marawi, which has a predominantly Muslim population in a largely Catholic country.

The Maute rebels’ hold of Marawi City and the government’s announcement that Indonesians and Malaysians were among the fighters have raised alarm about the prospect of the IS’s radical ideology gaining traction in Southeast Asia.

“I saw two jets swoop down and fire at rebel positions repeatedly,” Alexander Mangundatu, a security guard, said as a plume of black smoke billowed in the distance. “I pity the civilians and the women who were near the targeted area. They’re getting caught in the conflict and I hope this ends soon.”

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Eduardo Año said Hapilon is still hiding out in the city under the protection of gunmen who are desperately trying to find a way to extricate him. He said Hapilon suffered a stroke after a government airstrike wounded him in January.

Año predicted that the military operation would take about a week as soldiers go house to house to clear the city of militants.

Solicitor General Jose Calida said foreigners were fighting alongside the gunmen in Marawi, including Indonesians and Malaysians.

“We suspect that, but we’re still validating,” he said on reports that foreign fighters were helping the Maute militants.

Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said government forces were working to “clear the city of all remnants of this group.”

He said some civilians refused to evacuate because they want to guard their homes, slowing down government operations.

“But that’s fine as long as civilians are not hurt,” Padilla said.

“In as much as we would like to avoid collateral damage, these terrorists are forcing the hand of government by hiding and holding out inside private homes, government buildings and other facilities. Their refusal to surrender is holding the city captive,” he said.

“We appeal for everyone’s understanding as we take the necessary steps to accomplish our mission and prevent the loss of more innocent lives and damage to property,” Padilla said.

Open to dialogue

At Malacañang, President Duterte’s spokesman Ernesto Abella said the Chief Executive is open to negotiation with the terror group in the spirit of Ramadan.

“In this spirit of Muslim peace, the President has offered the hand of peaceful dialogue to terrorist groups, to avoid bloodshed in this time of prayer, fasting and mercy,” Abella said yesterday.

“With all faiths, we pray that God restore and preserve peace in Mindanao,” he said.

The Palace issued a statement of solidarity with the Muslim community as Islam’s observance of Ramadan began yesterday.

“We stand with Muslim Filipinos in their reverent observance of the holy month of Ramadan.
Together we pray for an end to terrorism that falsely claims to advance Islam and seeks to subjugate our land to the brutal IS,” Abella said.

The Palace also took time to pray for the policemen killed in the initial fighting with the Maute group.

“We take a moment to remember some of the first casualties in the May 23 attacks in Marawi City; Marawi City Police Senior Insp. and Intelligence Unit chief Freddie Manuel Solar, from Baguio City, and two members of Special Forces, First Lt. John Carl Morales and Special Forces Marlon Baldovino, both of Kabacan, North Cotabato,” Abella said.

While claiming he is open to dialogue, Duterte said on Friday he had instructed the military to kill anyone brandishing unlicensed firearms in Mindanao, especially if they resist when accosted.

The Maute group has emerged from the glut of bandit and separatist groups in Mindanao. It is seen as a tactically smart, social media savvy group eager to align with IS militants.

Security experts say Mindanao could become a draw for regional extremists and the Maute’s alignment with the IS and its ability to take on the military could support moves to secure funding and recruit foreign and local fighters.

A city of 200,000 people, Marawi is mostly deserted, with officials saying “80-90 percent” of the population has been evacuated.

Some residents remain in relatively safe neighbors but others are trapped close to the fighters from the Maute group and other militants from the area.

IS’s Amaq news agency claimed responsibility for the Marawi unrest, although that came more than a day after it started.

The military said Maute has yet to be endorsed by the IS as one of its affiliates.

The militants have control of some government buildings, including a jail, which was seized on Tuesday, leading to the escape of more than 100 prisoners, including some Maute members.

“I saw them near the highway. I saw ISIS there. I could tell because they wore black headbands with the ISIS signs,” said one man fleeing Marawi by foot, who identified himself as Musa. “They were also riding around my area on motorcycles.”

Jo-Ar Herrera, a military spokesman, said 41 militants had been killed, with 10 more deaths after heavy fighting on Friday. Two more soldiers died, bringing the total of those killed in action to 13. Forty-five military personnel had been wounded.

Asked whether the military had located the whereabouts of Hapilon in Marawi, Herrera answered “yes.”

“They can run but they can’t hide,” he said, adding that it was only a matter of time before Hapilon is captured or killed.

Hapilon, a leader of another Mindanao-based rebel group Abu Sayyaf, pledged allegiance to IS last year and has formed an alliance with Maute.

The military said he is still wounded from a January air strike and the fierce Maute resistance is aimed at protecting him.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Hapilon received $2 million from Syria to fund his campaign in Mindanao.

Sidney Jones, a regional security expert, said it was not clear that Hapilon was calling the shots in Marawi.

Abdullah Maute, one of two brothers that formed Maute, may be setting the overall strategy.

“He’s smarter, and the fighters are in his territory. So no, Hapilon’s death would not cripple the movement,” Jones said.  – With Christina Mendez, AP

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/05/28/1704332/afp-turns-heavy-firepower-vs-maute

 

Philippine Military Has Retaken Total Area of Marawi City

May 27, 2017
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Gen. Eduardo Año said although the troops have the upper hand, it is proving difficult for them to engage in urban warfare as the militants have taken tactical positions in almost every house in the city.AP/Bullit Marquez, file

ILIGAN CITY, Philippines – As the fighting between government forces and gunmen of the Islamic State-inspired Maute group entered its fifth day, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Eduardo Año predicted the military operation will take about a week as soldiers go house to house to clear Marawi City of militants.

Año said although the troops have the upper hand, it is proving difficult for them to engage in urban warfare as the militants have taken tactical positions in almost every house in the city.

“We are in total control of the whole area but it’s not cleared due to the urban terrain,” Año told reporters on the sidelines of President Duterte’s visit to the Army’s 2nd Mechanized Battalion headquarters late Friday.

Año, however, vowed to crush the militants and end the siege.

“We will make this their cemetery,” he said. “We have to finish this.”

Troops often encounter sniper fire as they advance slowly to clear the city of rebels.

“We have to clear one step at a time, house to house, block by block,” Año said.

Año pointed out the troops are used to fighting in the jungle but not in close combat encounters with gunmen in an urban setting.

“Here (Marawi) all it takes is for an armed person to position himself inside a building (as a sniper)… it would take time before it could be cleared,” he said.

Año said they have to send in more troops to help in the clearing operations. “We have enough troops but we need additional reinforcement to speed up our clearing,” he said.

AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said government forces are working to “clear the city of all remnants of this group.”

Padilla said some civilians refused to evacuate because they want to guard their homes, which is slowing down the government operations.

“But that’s fine as long as civilians are not hurt,” he said.

On Friday, Duterte ordered the military to crush the militants, warning that the country is at a grave risk of  “contamination” by the Islamic State (IS) group.

At least 44 people have died in the fighting, including 31 militants and 11 soldiers, officials said. It was not immediately clear whether civilians were among the dead.

The violence has forced thousands of people to flee and raised fears of growing extremism.

Duterte told the troops here that he had long feared that “contamination by ISIS” loomed in the country’s future, using the acronym for the Islamic State group. “You can say that ISIS is here already,” he said.

He gave the troops a free hand to wrest control of Marawi. “You can arrest any person, search any house without warrant,” Duterte said.

The city of Marawi, home to some 200,000 people, has been under siege by IS-linked militants since a failed raid Tuesday night on the suspected hideout of Isnilon Hapilon, the leader of the notorious Abu Sayyaf group.

Hapilon got away and fighters loyal to him took over parts of the city, burning buildings and seizing about a dozen hostages, including a priest. Their condition is unknown.

Hapilon is still hiding out in the city under the protection of gunmen who are desperately trying to find a way to “extricate” him, Año said.

“Right now, he is still inside (the city). We cannot just pinpoint the particular spot,” he said.

Año said Hapilon suffered a stroke after a government airstrike wounded him in January.

Año also said foreign fighters were believed to be among the militants still holding out in the city.

“We suspect that but we’re still validating,” he said. – With Jaime Laude, Evelyn Macairan, John Unson, Lino dela Cruz, Christina Mendez, AP

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/05/28/1704348/afp-control-marawi-city-…