Posts Tagged ‘Mindanao’

‘Strong’ Philippine priest smiles after IS hostage ordeal ends

September 18, 2017


© AFP / by Mynardo MACARAIG | Catholic priest Father Teresito Suganob (2nd L) was taken hostage along with about 13 parishioners from a local cathedral in Marawi city

MANILA (AFP) – A Catholic priest kidnapped by Islamic State supporters when they seized parts of a southern Philippine city nearly four months ago smiled and declared himself “strong” Monday after escaping.Father Teresito Suganob called for prayers at a press conference at military headquarters in Manila after he was rescued late on Saturday when the military said it overran the militants’ control centre inside a mosque in Marawi city.

“Thank you and I pray for you, God bless you all. Pray for me, for my recovery,” said Suganob, 51, as he smiled and waved to reporters.

In a jocular mood despite his ordeal, the heavily bearded but apparently well-fed Suganob declared: “I am physically strong and handsome. That’s it for now.”

Hundreds of gunmen rampaged through Marawi, the main Muslim city in the mostly Catholic Philippines, on May 23 and then occupied key districts in what authorities said was an attempt to establish a Southeast Asian base for IS in the Philippines.

More than 850 people have been killed and large parts of Marawi destroyed in the ensuing fighting, which has seen the gunmen defy a US-backed military campaign that has included heavy bombing.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law across the southern region of Mindanao in response to the crisis.

Suganob, a parish priest in Marawi commonly known as “Father Chito”, was taken hostage along with about 13 parishioners from a local cathedral on the first day of the fighting.

The militants later released a video showing themselves vandalising the cathedral.

Another video released by his captors in late May showed Suganob standing in the rubble of buildings in Marawi asking President Duterte to withdraw troops and stop the military offensive.

– ‘Prisoners of war’ –

Suganob said at the time that the gunmen were holding 240 “prisoners of war”, including teachers, carpenters and household workers. They were mostly Christians and local tribespeople.

“We want to live another day. We want to live another month,” Suganob said in the video as gunfire was heard in the distance.

One escaped hostage later told authorities that Suganob had been forced to serve as a cook for the militants, according to the then-military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jo-ar Herrera in early July.

This was one of many reports that the militants were forcing their hostages to work as slaves.

Authorities said the hostages’ roles included carrying the gunmen’s food and ammunition, serving as stretcher-bearers for their wounded, collecting munitions and even acting as human shields.

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters that Suganob and another hostage, a 29-year-old male school teacher surnamed Acopio, were able to escape late on Saturday night as the militants pulled out of a mosque following hours of fighting.

“As the intensity of the armed confrontation continued to escalate in favour of our troops and as the terrorists were busy repelling the attack, our troops had the opportunity to snatch Father Chito and Mr Acopio,” Lorenzana said.

Lorenzana and military chiefs described Saturday’s overrunning of the mosque and another building that had been used by the militants as important victories, and predicted an end to the crisis soon.

“It is close, our soldiers on the ground are saying that we are near to finishing,” Lorenzana said.

Nevertheless they conceded many obstacles remained, including improvised explosive devices and secret tunnels where the militants were hiding other hostages.

“The Bato mosque, underneath there are a lot of intricate tunnels and secret chambers so we are actually clearing those chambers and there are hostages in there,” military chief Eduardo Ano said.

Military spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said that 673 militants, 47 civilians and 149 soldiers had been killed in the fighting.

He said there were 40 to 60 hostages and that some were still being forced to fight with the gunmen.

There were up to 80 fighters on the IS side but they could include some of the hostages, according to Padilla.

by Mynardo MACARAIG

Priest rescued as Philippine troops retake parts of Marawi — “Our troops gained the upper hand, the terrorists were forced to withdraw”

September 18, 2017
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Marawi’s vicar-general Father Teresito “Chito” Soganub waves to the media and soldiers at a military camp, after soldiers rescued him from the Islamic State-linked rebels stronghold in Marawi, during a news conference in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines September 18, 2017. REUTERS/Dondi Tawatao

MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine troops rescued a catholic priest held hostage for almost four months by Islamic State-linked rebels after an offensive that captured a stronghold of the militants in southern Marawi City, defense officials said on Monday.

Marawi’s vicar-general Father Teresito “Chito” Soganub was kidnapped along with other Christians as militants rampaged through the city on May 23, burning churches and schools, releasing prisoners and seizing arms in a well-planned assault.

Soganub, flanked by Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and military chief General Eduardo Ano, appeared to be in good health and high spirits when he was presented to the media in Manila. He expressed his thanks but gave no statement.

“Our troops gained the upper hand, the terrorists were forced to withdraw to nearby structures on the periphery of the mosque,” Lorenzana told a media briefing in Manila, referring to the Bato mosque held by the rebels for 117 days.

“Troops had opportunity to snatch Father Chito…”

The appearance of Soganub is some rare good news for a military that has suffered a string of setbacks in Marawi, from deadly accidents during a controversial campaign of air strikes to repeatedly missing deadlines on when the battle would be won.

The siege of the city by an alliance of rebels from the island of Mindanao, and numerous foreign fighters, has been the biggest internal security crisis in years for the Philippines, a country used to separatist and communist rebellions.

Marawi’s vicar-general Father Teresito “Chito” Soganub smiles as he is flanked by Philippine Armed Forces chief Eduardo Ano (L) and Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, after soldiers rescued him from the Islamic State-linked rebels stronghold in Marawi, during a news conference in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines September 18, 2017. REUTERS/Dondi Tawatao

Soganub made an appearance under duress in a militant propaganda video about a week after his capture, urging the government to stop the military operation in Marawi in exchange for sparing lives of hostages.

The priest was among scores held by militants at the Bato mosque, one of Marawi’s largest, which troops captured on Saturday afternoon. He was rescued along with another hostage, Lordvin Ocopio.

Marawi’s vicar-general Father Teresito “Chito” Soganub speaks before the media, after soldiers rescued him from the Islamic State-linked rebels stronghold in Marawi, during a news conference in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines September 18, 2017. REUTERS/Dondi Tawatao

The rebels who laid siege to Marawi are from an extremist faction of the Abu Sayyaf group, led by Isnilon Hapilon, the so-called “emir” of  Southeast Asia, and members of the militant Maute family, which has deep clan connections in the lakeside town and surrounding areas.

Military chief Ano said about 10 foreigners were still in the battle among some 50-60 rebels, who were holding 45-50 hostages.

Hapilon was among those still fighting but several of the Maute brothers were likely dead, Ano added, citing information provided by civilians who escaped and some captured rebels.

As of Monday, 149 members of government forces had died in combat, along with 47 civilians.

More than 670 militants have been killed, according to a military estimate of bodies recovered and targets hit.

Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Writing by Tom Allard and Karen Lema; Editing by Martin Petty & Simon Cameron-Moore

Philippine Army Says Taking Fire From Women, Children in Marawi Battle — Duterte doesn’t see end of Marawi crisis much before December

September 4, 2017

MARAWI CITY, Philippines — Philippine troops fighting Islamic State-linked rebels in a southern city have encountered armed resistance from women and children, the military said on Monday, as troops make a final push to end a conflict that has raged for more than 100 days.

Ground forces were braced for higher casualties amid fierce fighting in Marawi City on the island of Mindanao, where the field of battle has shrank to a small area in a commercial heart infested with snipers, and littered with booby traps.

“We are now in the final phase of our operations and we are expecting more intense and bloody fighting. We may suffer heavier casualties as the enemy becomes more desperate,” Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez, who heads the military in Western Mindanao, told reporters.

He said the number of fighters was diminishing and a small number of women and children, most likely family members of the rebels, were now engaged in combat.

“Our troops in the field are seeing women and children shooting at our troops so that’s why it seems they are not running out of fighters.”

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 The Philippine Amy and the Philippine Marines join forces as it stage assault in a terrorists position in Mapandi, Marawi City July 12 as the exchange of gunfire fire reign the area.(Photo by : Richel V. Umel, Inquirer Mindanao)

More than 800 people have been killed in the battle, most of them insurgents, since May 23 when the militants occupied large parts of the predominantly Muslim town.

The battle is the biggest security challenge in years for the mostly Catholic Philippines, even though it has a long history of Muslim separatist rebellion in Mindanao, an island of 22 million people that has been placed under martial law until the end of the year.

The protracted clashes and resilience of the rebels has fanned fears that Philippine groups loyal to Islamic State, and with ties to Indonesian and Malaysian militants, have formed an alliance that is well-organized, funded and armed, and serious about carving out its own territory in Mindanao.

Citing information provided by four hostages who had escaped from the rebels, Galvez said there were some 56 Christian hostages – most of them women – and about 80 male residents may have been forced to take up arms and fight the military.

The fighting was concentrated in an area around a mosque about a quarter of a square kilometer. He said soldiers were taking control of an average 35 buildings a day and at that rate, it could be three weeks before the city was under government control.

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Philippine Marines, backed by a V300 infantry fighting vehicle, cross Mapandi Bridge, a key area in the fighting in Marawi City that has now reached a hundred days. Froilan Gallardo, ABS-CBN News


Fighting in Marawi was intense on Monday, with heavy gunfire and explosions ringing out across the picturesque, lakeside town, the heart of which has been devastated by near-daily government air strikes.

Helicopters circled above to provide air cover for ground troops as fighting raged, with bursts of smoke rising above the skyline as bombs landed on rebel positions.

Galvez said intelligence showed the rebels’ military commander, Abdullah Maute, may have been killed last month in an air strike.

Postings on Facebook and chatter over the past two days on Telegram, a messaging application used by Islamic State and its sympathizers, had carried tributes to Abdullah, referring to him by one of his pseudonyms, he said.

“There is no 100 percent confirmation until we see his cadaver but this is enough to presume he died already,” he said.

The military has contradictory statements about the status of the rebel leaders over the past few months.

Abdullah Maute and brother Omarkhayam are the Middle East-educated leaders of a militant clan known as the Maute group that has gained notoriety in the past two years due to its ability to engage the army for long periods.

Under the name Dawla Islamiya, the Maute group has formed an alliance with Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of a pro-Islamic State faction of another group, Abu Sayyaf.

Galvez said the army’s intelligence indicated both Omarkhayam and Hapilon, Islamic State’s anointed “emir” in Southeast Asia, were still in the Marawi battle.

For a graphic on how main Islamic militant groups in Mindanao evolved, click:

For a graphic on Islamic militant strongholds in Mindanao, click:

For a graphic on deaths in Marawi, click:

(Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Robert Birsel)


Duterte sees end of Marawi crisis by December

 / 07:29 AM September 04, 2017


The Philippine Amy and the Philippine Marines join forces as it stage assault in a terrorists position in Mapandi, Marawi City July 12 as the exchange of gunfire fire reign the area.(Photo by : Richel V. Umel, Inquirer Mindanao)

DAVAO CITY — The Marawi crisis should end soon so that the government can deal with other problems that could erupt into bigger troubles, President Rodrigo Duterte said on Saturday.

Mr. Duterte was referring to the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, whose members are becoming restive over the delay in the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law in Congress.

“I have until the end of the year to contain this thing,” Mr. Duterte told reporters here late on Saturday after attending the birthday celebration of Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles.

“You know, the Marawi [crisis] is ending. What’s prolonging it is our effort to save the lives of everybody, including the terrorists if possible. I objected, I ruled out the bombing of mosques because destroying that could mean the destruction of what’s in the soul of Muslims everywhere,” he said.

Mr. Duterte said targeting the mosques could also put the lives of the hostages at risk.

The military said last week the Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorists holed up in Marawi were still holding about 50 hostages, but on Saturday, the President said he was not sure.

He said the terrorists could kill the hostages at government troops’ first attempt to storm buildings held by the gunmen.

‘We’ll get Hapilon’

Mr. Duterte said he was being cautious “because at the end of the day, I take the blame for everything.”

On Sunday, Malacañang promised that the government would capture Isnilon Hapilon, the leader of the Islamic State-inspired terrorists holed up in Marawi.

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the government believed Hapilon, leader of an Abu Sayyaf faction that joined the Maute terror group in attacking Marawi, was still alive and in the city, surrounded by government troops.

Raw information

“We treat numerous reports saying that Hapilon has left Marawi and has been seen openly in Basilan as raw information requiring further validation by the military and various security agencies of [the] government,” he said in a statement.

“Granting Isnilon Hapilon’s whereabouts in Basilan is true, it would mean that he chose to abandon his men as the battle of Marawi nears its final stretch,” Abella said.

But recent military assessment indicated that Hapilon, who has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State jihadist group in the Middle East, is “still very much in Marawi,” he added. —With a report from Philip C. Tubeza in Manila

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Philippine Troops in Tough Push in Marawi; Three Dead, 52 Hurt

September 1, 2017

MANILA — Philippine troops have fought one of their toughest clashes against militants loyal to Islamic State in a southern town, and three soldiers were killed and 52 wounded, many by rebel bombs as they pushed forward, an officer said on Friday.

The Islamists shocked the country by seizing large parts of Marawi town in May. After more than 100 days of fighting, pockets of fighters remain dug in in the ruins.

The army made its push on Thursday, the eve of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, and seized a bridge in what military spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla described as some of the toughest fighting yet.

At least five militants were killed, he said.

“We are working to clear the remaining areas where the enemy is holding out,” Padilla said in a statement.

“Following a short pause early today, to give due respect to the solemnity and significance of this day, the operations will continue without any let up,” he said, referring to the Muslim holiday.

 Image result for news for marawi, philippines, photos

The military has expressed confidence the end is in sight for what has been its biggest security crisis in years, which started in May, but the latest casualties underscore the difficulty that they still face in the battlefield.

In all, 620 militants, 45 civilians and 136 soldiers and policemen have been killed in the fighting that has displaced hundreds of thousands of people and raised fears about Islamic State establishing a foothold in Southeast Asia.

The military has missed repeated targets and deadlines to crush the rebels in Marawi, a largely Muslim town on the southern island of Mindanao, raising questions about whether it can contain a wider rebellion.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who placed all of Mindanao under martial law until the end of the year after the militants occupied Marawi, has urged lawmakers to approve funds to beef up the army by 20,000 troops.

On Friday, Duterte said he saw no reason to lift martial law in Mindanao, citing violence in other parts of the island.

“The way it looks, there seems to be some spillover,” he said, without elaborating.

Muslim rebels in the south of the predominately Christian Philippines have for generations battled for greater autonomy but in recent years hopes for peace were raised with several factions engaged in talks.

But the Marawi fighting has dimmed those hopes.

For an interactive on battle for Marawi, click:

(Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Additional reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Robert Birsel)


Duterte contradicts earlier statement to bomb Marawi mosque

In this June 9, 2017 photo, a mosque in Marawi City is silhouetted against a setting sun. File

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said that he advised the military against bombing a mosque in Marawi City where Islamist fighters were believed to be holding dozens of hostages, a remark that contradicts a statement he gave early this week giving the Armed Forces the option to attack the Muslim place of worship to end the siege already more than 100 days old.

Duterte on Wednesday said that during his last visit to Marawi, the country’s only Islamic city, he told the military that bombing the mosque was up to them as the country could not afford to have a stalemate for a long period of time.

“Yung the last time I was there, that would be around five days ago, six days ago, I finally said na ano, ‘The option is already yours because we cannot have a stalemate for over one year,’” he said in a speech.

The president also detailed that night his earlier apprehension over the bombing of the mosque as it could fuel anger among the town’s residents who were already resentful because their property and houses had already been destroyed by the AFP’s air and ground assaults.

He said such an offensive would virtually sacrifice the lives of the hostages still in Maute’s hands.

“Matagal na ‘yan sa on deck na talagang gusto bobombahin ang mosque to capture or kill the leaders there and in the process, sacrifice ‘yung mga hostage who are all Filipinos, maybe Maranaos and a mingling of Christians, Tagalog, nandiyan. Kung gusto na nilang lusubin noon, sabi ko, “Ayaw ko’,” the president said.

As Muslims celebrate their Feast of the Sacrifice, one of their holiest celebrations, on Friday, Duterte swung back to his previous position on the issue, this time in front of the soldiers of the Eastern Mindanao Command.

Duterte said that that he had been consistently against the bombing even if he had left the crafting of the military strategy with the AFP’s generals and commanders.

He said that he had told the military’s generals that bombing the mosque would foment hatred among the resident already reeling from the displacement caused by the most serious security problem to confront Duterte so far.

The military also could not sacrifice the welfare of the civilians, Duterte claimed to have told his generals.

“Sinabi ko sa mga top echelons we cannot destroy the mosques because that will forever wala na katapusan ang hatred dyan,” he told soldiers. “But what will give us in terms of good will? We would have wounded the feelings of the entire Muslim world.”

The president also discussed how he grieved over reports of deaths of military personnel every night, saying that it was difficult for him to face families left behind by men killed in the conflict.

He said: “Ako yung nandun, ako yung sinasalubong ng yakap pati iyak.”

The chief executive also challenged his critics who had been advocating a different approach to the conflict labeled by one expert as the most serious terror event to have struck Southeast Asia in the past 15 years.

“I hope the time will come na sila talaga. Tingnan natin kung maganda yang suggestion nila. There is another way to fight ISIS let alone Maute,” he said, describing the radical group as an organization “geared to the destruction of mankind.”

The conflict in Marawi has highlighted the security challenge the Philippines and its neighboring countries face as the specter of a so-called Islamic State province looms in the horizon.

It has also highlighted the deficiency of the Philippine military, especially in waging urban warfare, according to a regional security expert, as well as the possibility of more fighters joining the rebellion as the credibility of Isnilon Hapilon, the group’s appointed regional leader, is enhanced.

Australia offers to train Philippine troops in IS fight

August 29, 2017


© AFP/File | Philippine Marines taking cover from sniper fire while on patrol at the frontline in Marawi on the southern island of Mindanao

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia Tuesday offered to help train the Philippines military to tackle Islamic militants terrorising parts of the country, calling the threat “deeply concerning”.Philippine forces have been besieging militants in the southern city of Marawi for almost 100 days. But the gunmen, flying the Islamic State group’s black flag, have defied military assaults including airstrikes and artillery barrages.

Australia, which has an extensive defence cooperation program with Manila, has already deployed two high-tech AP-3C Orion aircraft for surveillance, and is keen to provide further help.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she recently spoke to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte who wanted to bolster resources for his armed forces.

“We would be ready to support the Philippines in the same way we are supporting Iraq in advising, assisting and training,” she said.

“We indicated what we have been doing in Iraq. I went through with the president in some detail the support we have given in Iraq, that does not include troops on the ground. That is advising and assisting.”

Australia is part of the coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, with 780 defence personnel based in the Middle East.

Bishop said it was “deeply concerning” for the entire Asian region that Islamic State had a presence in the southern Philippines, with the United States, Malaysia and Indonesia also offering support.

Duterte declared martial law across Mindanao island, home to 20 million people, on May 23 immediately after fighters flying the IS flag rampaged through Marawi.

Their assault on the city ignited an unprecedented urban war, which Duterte has warned is part of an IS campaign to establish a base in Mindanao.

Philippines: Marawi siege ‘most serious terror event’ in Southeast Asia in past 15 years

August 25, 2017
The siege of Marawi City is the most significant terror event to have struck Southeast Asia in the past 15 years, according to an Australian expert. AP/Aaron Favila, File

MANILA, Philippines — The siege of Marawi City which began in May is the most significant terrorist event in Southeast Asia in the last 15 years, according to an expert on the region’s politics, highlighting the deficiency of the Philippine military and beginning what could be a long-term security threat to the Philippines and neighboring countries.

The clashes in Marawi, which prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to place Mindanao under military rule, has provided Islamist militants involved in the fighting stature among radical communities for successfully mounting the most prominent display of jihadist force of the so-called Islamic State fighters in the region, according to Greg Fealy of the Australian National University.

“The battle for Marawi is the most significant terrorist event in Southeast Asia since the Bali bombings of 2002, which killed 202 people,” he said, referring to the terror attack on the popular tourist island in Indonesia.

The fighting has also highlighted the weakness of the Armed Forces especially in engaging in urban combat, according Fealy. The Philippine military has been supported by American advisers as well as US and Australian intelligence operations, highlighting the “assymetrical nature of the conflict,” the expert said.

The American military is also training a handful of Filipino soldiers in urban warfare, despite Duterte’s past attacks on the presence of US troops in the country.

“[T]he Philippine armed forces have been exposed as poorly prepared for urban combat and quite unable to deliver on their promises of a quick and comprehensive routing of the insurgents,” he said, in stark contrast to the performance of the Islamist fighters who have been far more resourceful and well prepared for their urban operations than originally anticipated.

Fealy said of the militants: “They have proven to be expert at using IEDs, ambushing techniques and snipers to kill and unnerve Philippine soldiers.”

“They have also stockpiled large quantities of food and ammunition, and have been able to get more fighters and supplies into their Marawi stronghold despite the government’s attempts to seal off the area.”

Another reason for this serious assessment of the Marawi conflict was the possibility that Isnilon Hapilon, the appointed emir of the so-called IS in Southeast Asia, would be able to attract new recruits, many of whom young and well educated but largely disaffected with other Muslim groups in Mindanao seen as having sold out by entering into peace negotiations with the government.

“[T]he longer the Marawi jihadists frustrate the Philippine forces and their US advisers, the greater will be their stature among jihadist communities across the region and beyond,” he said.

The Australian expert warned that the so-called IS may declare Mindanao as a province, the first area to be declared so in Southeast Asia, adding that the central command has aided its supporters in Marawi with funding and praise on its official media outlets.

In July, a report by the Institute for Policy of Analysis of Conflict said that IS central provided the militants’ Marawi operations with periodic transfers of thousands of dollars, providing a link between the fighters and the retreating radical group in the Middle East.

Fealy said that reports indicated that a growing number of radical group’s supporters were seeking to travel in Mindanao to participate in the hostilities.

“As conditions worsen for IS in Syria and Iraq, more IS partisans in Asia are likely to regard Mindanao as a legitimate alternative,” he said.

A longer-term risk for the region is that the fighting has not only provided Islamist fighters technical expertise but also prestige to a new generation of jihadists across the region, said Fealy. This knowledge can then be passed on to other terror cells, he added.

Since the fighting in Marawi began on May 23, hundreds of soldiers, civilians and Islamist militants have been killed. More than 200,000 families were also displaced by the clashes.

Ground and air assaults by the AFP have failed to decisively end the battle which has already entered its fourth month despite Duterte’s declaration of martial law in the region and the pouring of thousands of soldiers and resources.

The destruction of Marawi’s central district has already been likened to the destruction of the Iraqi city of Mosul after the so-called IS took it in 2014.

Duterte has promised P20 billion to rehabilitate the Islamic City, but this process has been hampered by the continuous fighting.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s murderous anti-drug campaign featured in Video — “One of the world’s most brazen human rights catastrophes.”

July 29, 2017

The Intercept

President Donald attracted bipartisan criticism in April for enthusiastically endorsing one of the world’s most brazen human rights catastrophes: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s murderous anti-drug campaign. Since Duterte took office last June, police and vigilante death squads have killed more than 7,000 people, and devastated poor in communities in cities across the country.

Now, a new film shows the human toll of Duterte’s campaign. “Duterte’s Hell,” by Aaron Goodman and Luis Liwanag and produced with the documentary unit Field of Vision, shows graphic images of Philippine police examining and carting off dead bodies, and grieving communities struggling to cope with the government-sanctioned murders.

The president of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte has also likened himself to Hitler

President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte

In 2016, Duterte campaigned on a policy of mass extermination for anyone involved in the drug trade — not only drug traffickers, but addicts as well. “Hitler massacred three million Jews,” Duterte said in September. “Now there is three million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them.”

In April, Trump stunned observers of the crisis by placing what his aides described as a “very friendly” call to Duterte, inviting the Philippine president to the White House. Weeks later, The Intercept, in partnership with the Philippine news site Rappler, obtained and published a transcript of that call, showing that Trump heaping praise on the drug campaign. “I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem,” he told Duterte.

Human rights groups have documented how small groups of plainclothes police or vigilante assassins will gun down subjects on the street or burst into the roadside shacks in urban slums. Uniformed police frequently show up later and routinely plant drugs or guns on the corpses to justify the killings.

“I swear on my family, my son is not a pusher, my son had no gun,” one mother wails, turning to the camera. “Please! Tell [this] to the whole world. Please help me! He’s not a dog, my son. He’s not a dog or a pig to kill like them.”

Set in Manila, Field of Vision’s film demonstrates the impact the war has had on urban slums — an effect so disproportionate it lead Amnesty International to label the campaign a “murderous war on poor.” “Duterte’s Hell” intimately portrays crowds gathering around grieving mothers in the slums, watching as police load the corpses into trucks and cart them off.

Duterte has an answer for why his killing campaign has overwhelmingly focused on cities’ slums, not affluent drug users: Duterte once explained to anti-poverty groups that he can’t go after rich drug users because they fly around on private jets and he “cannot afford the fighter planes,” according to a profile in the New Yorker.

Duterte was infamous for extrajudicial killings long before he became president. As early as 1996, as mayor of Davao city, a port city on the southern island of Mindanao where he is still wildly popular, Duterte relied on several-hundred member death squad to kill criminals and suppress opposition. Multiple former members of the group have come forward and said Duterte personally ordered the assassinations, and the now-president has even bragged about killing people himself from the back of a motorcycle.

In many ways, Duterte is a product of political environment he grew up in. He is the first Philippine president from the island of Mindanao, which has a long and troubled colonial history. For hundreds of years, the Muslim community in the south of the island resisted the Spanish, who had conquered the northern part of the island and tried to spread Catholicism. After the Spanish-American war, thousands died under U.S. military rule as the result of a “pacification” campaign in Mindanao.

The legacy of that history is that Mindanao has been the home to several armed rebel and terrorist groups over the years, as well as mafia-like criminal organizations. It was Duterte’s bloody approach to fighting back against those organizations that earned him a nickname he still embraces: “the death squad mayor.”

Video at the link:


In this Monday, July 24, 2017, photo, young Indigenous People known as Lumads form the words “Save Lumad schools” as they join a march of thousands of protesters to coincide with the state of the nation address of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in Quezon city, northeast of Manila, Philippines. Human rights groups asked Duterte Wednesday, July 26, 2017, to retract a threat to order airstrikes against tribal schools he accused of teaching students to become communist rebels, warning such an attack would constitute a war crime. U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said international humanitarian law “prohibits attacks on schools and other civilian structures unless they are being used for military purposes,” adding that deliberate attacks on civilians, including students and teachers, “is also a war crime.” AP/Bullit Marquez


 (Contains links to several more related articles)

Residents and police gather near the blanket-covered body of a man killed, along with four others, in an alleged police anti-drug operation in Manila, Philippines Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. Authorities said 3,200 alleged drug personalities have died in police operations from July 1, 2016 to June 20, 2017. AP Photo/Bullit Marquez

Philippines: Only 60 militants fighting in Marawi siege — gunmen fighting in an area less than one square kilometer — martial law remains

July 28, 2017

July 28 at 10:24 AM
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine military said Friday only about 60 pro-Islamic State group militants are still fighting in a two-month siege of southern Marawi city that has left 630 people dead and swaths of the Islamic region in ruins.Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said most of the militants’ leaders are believed to be still with the main group of gunmen fighting in an area less than one square kilometer (0.4 square mile). Despite the militants’ setbacks, officials still are unable to say when the violence will end.

“Our troops are in a very high state of morale, all leaning forward to finish this operation at the soonest time possible,” Padilla said in a news conference in Manila.

President Rodrigo Duterte has said he ordered troops to refrain from staging a massive assault to ensure the safety of hostages still held by the gunmen, possibly in a mosque. As of the 67th day of fighting, 471 militants, 114 troops and police and 45 civilians have been killed, according to the military.

“We believe their leadership is still there. That may be the reason why they’re intently guarding some areas,” Padilla said.

Congress has approved Duterte’s request to extend a 60-day declaration of martial law to the end of the year to allow troops and police to prevent other Muslim rebel groups from reinforcing the militants in Marawi.

On Tuesday, 59 men suspected of being on their way to help the militants were arrested in southern Ipil town and Zamboanga city. The suspects were flown Friday under heavy guard to the Department of Justice in Manila, where they denied before prosecutors that they were aiming to back up the extremists.

Philippines: After President Duterte’s state of the nation speech he threatened to order troops and police to shoot left-wing protesters who commit civil disturbance, “even if I have to bury thousands of Filipinos.”

July 25, 2017

President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his state of the nation address, July 24, 2017.


MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Latest on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s state of the nation speech (all times local):

8:30 p.m.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, in a rare move, has met with thousands of left-wing protesters after his annual state of the nation address, but was angered when some heckled him.

“Shut up first. I don’t want to face you if you are like that,” Duterte told the activists, a few of whom interrupted him several times. Some shouted, “We want peace talks!”

They were referring to preliminary peace talks with communist rebels that Duterte halted following rebel attacks on security forces, including an ambush last week of presidential guards in the south. Five of his security men were hurt, but Duterte was not in the area.

“You can shout at me here and disrespect me but this is the last time that I will talk to you,” said Duterte, who in the past has called himself the first leftist Philippine president. He called for mutual respect, adding he was once like the activists.

In a news conference after his confrontation with the protesters, he said he was categorically putting an end to peace talks with the communist rebels.

He said the left should understand that “You cannot ambush me and ask me to talk to you.”


6:30 p.m.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte says he will not talk to communist guerrillas because of recent attacks and is threatening to order troops and police to shoot left-wing protesters who commit civil disturbance “even if I have to bury thousands of Filipinos.”

The tough-talking leader used his second state of the nation address before Congress on Monday to explain his decision last week to scrap preliminary peace talks with communist rebel leaders in Europe as a result of the attacks, including one that wounded five presidential guards last Wednesday in a southern town.

“You in the left, I will not talk to you. Why should I?” he said, accusing the Maoist insurgents of insincerity. He also vented his anger toward a group of poor slum dwellers who took over a housing project intended for government security forces.

“You do anarchy, I will order the soldiers and the police to shoot. Even if I have to bury thousands of Filipinos. Do not do that to me,” Duterte said. Some police officials in the audience applauded.

It’s the latest discord that has hampered talks between the guerrillas and Duterte’s administration. The communist rebellion has raged for 48 years, making it one of Asia’s longest-running insurgencies.

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6 p.m.

Taking a snipe at the United States in his state of the nation address, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte asked America to return three church bells seized as spoils of war from the eastern Philippine village of Balangiga more than a century ago.

“Give us back those Balangiga bells,” Duterte said in his speech at the House of Representatives, attended by the U.S. ambassador and other diplomats. “They are part of our national heritage … return it to us, this is painful for us.”

Duterte, who calls himself a socialist, has had an antagonistic attitude toward the U.S. while bolstering ties with China and Russia.

Filipinos revere the Balangiga bells as symbols of their long struggle for independence. The bells gave the signal for insurgents to attack American soldiers who were occupying Balangiga after the U.S. took possession of the Philippines following the Spanish-American War.

Two of the three bells are displayed at the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming. They are part of a memorial to 46 U.S. troops killed by Filipino insurgents in 1901. A third bell is with a U.S. Army regiment in South Korea.

Talk about returning the bells has been a perennial issue in U.S.-Philippine relations.


5 p.m.

Despite international and domestic criticism, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte says he will not stop his deadly crackdown on illegal drugs and warns that addicts and dealers have two choices: jail or hell.

Thousands of suspects have perished during the anti-drug campaign he launched after being sworn into office in June last year, sparking widespread criticism and threats of prosecution.

“Do not try to scare me with prison or the International Court of Justice,” he said Monday in his annual state of the nation address. “I’m willing to go to prison for the rest of my life.”

He reiterated his plea that Congress reimpose the death penalty for drug offenders and others.

“The fight will not stop until those who deal in (drugs) understand that they have to stop because the alternatives are either jail or hell,” Duterte said, to applause from his national police chief, Ronald del Rosa, and other supporters in the audience.


4 p.m.

Waving red flags, several thousand left-wing protesters have marched with an effigy of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to the House of Representatives to demand he deliver on promises made in his first state of the nation speech last year, from holding peace talks with communist insurgents to improving internet speed.

Riot police, without batons and shields to underscore a policy of maximum tolerance toward demonstrators, separated the protesters from a smaller group of Duterte supporters outside the heavily guarded building, where Duterte delivered this year’s state of the nation speech on Monday.

Inside the hall, left-wing legislators sought ingenious ways to protest. Rep. Emmie de Jesus, who represents the Gabriela women’s party-list group, wore native clothes with beadwork reading “Regular Jobs Now,” a criticism of contractual work without benefits.

Another lawmaker, Arlene Brosas, wore a black dress with a hand-painted message by a former political prisoner saying “No to Martial Law.” Duterte won congressional approval on Saturday for an extension of martial law in the south to deal with the siege of Marawi city by pro-Islamic State group militants, the worst crisis he has faced since taking power last year.


Residents and police gather near the blanket-covered body of a man killed, along with four others, in an alleged police anti-drug operation in Manila, Philippines Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. Authorities said 3,200 alleged drug personalities have died in police operations from July 1, 2016 to June 20, 2017. AP Photo/Bullit Marquez


Image may contain: one or more people and people sitting

Credit: Raffy Lerma—Philippine Daily Inquirer

 (Contains links to several related articles)

Image may contain: outdoor
Discarded — The body of a dead Filipino girl — killed in President Duterte’s war on drugs — looks like it has been put out with the trash….. Presidential spokesman Abella said the war on drugs is for the next generation of Filipinos.

Opinion: No Time For Peace in the Philippines with “President of Death”

July 25, 2017
AP Photo/Bullit Marquez, File

While waiting for the Second State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte, I was tuned on ANC TV, which had a Mukha Special entitled “Di Ka Pasisiil” done some two weeks ago. Though it was a replay, it was the first time I saw it and let me say that the narrator Chiara Zambrano did a great job few journalists are given a chance to do… cover a real shooting war. It gave you an idea of the intensity of the Battle for Marawi and the suffering of the civilians who like the Maute terrorists are their fellow Muslims. Indeed, this was not a religious war… rather it was a war to raise the black foreign ISIS flag in Philippine territory.

At the end of this TV special on Marawi, it was during the June 12th Independence Day, which was supposedly the day Marawi would have celebrated its independence from the clutches of the Maute terrorists. The TV Footage showed Filipino soldiers singing the National Anthem while explosions could be heard in the background and Chiara Zambrano said something unforgettable, “Together with the National Anthem… boom, boom, (the sound of bombs), I will never take the National Anthem or any Flag ceremony for granted, ever again!”

The Mukha special ended with the last sentence of the National Anthem, “Ang mamatay nang dahil sa iyo!”After watching the Mukha Special, I decided not to wait until the 4 p.m. SONA of Pres. Duterte and finish this column without the speech of the President which our readers can read in the headline news of The Philippine Star. But we are elated by the fact that Martial Law in Mindanao was overwhelmingly extended by a Joint Session in the Senate and House of Representatives until December 31, 2017 with 261 lawmakers voting in favor of extending Martial Law, while only a measly 18 were against this extension.

This only shows that the majority of our politicians know and trust Pres. Duterte’s declaration of Martial Law, more so that there have been no reports of abuses by the military, except those presented by the opposition who had no evidence to show.

As expected, the leftist organization Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) vowed that they will be holding a series of protests against Martial Law because they know too well that after the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) clears Marawi City of the remaining Maute terrorists, the focus of the military will be the New People’s Army (NPA) who have been staging numerous attacks against the military in so many places all over the country. Bayan is the above ground supporter of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)… but the Filipino people know that Bayan and the NPA are one!

Last week, some 50 NPAs attacked a convoy of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) in Arakan, Cotabato. The NPAs disguised themselves as soldiers of Task Force Davao conducting a checkpoint and peppered the Ford van that the PSG used with bullets, wounding four soldiers. If you ask me, those NPAs might as well have targeted or attacked Pres. Duterte himself. This incident incensed Pres. Duterte so much that he ordered the backchannel talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the National Democratic Front (NDF) and the NPA stopped.

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Presidential Security Group (PSG) vehicle after the latest attack

Then a few days ago in the town of Guihulngan, Negros Oriental, the NPAs ambushed a Philippine National Police (PNP) convoy on its way to respond to reports that a Provincial Board member of Negros Oriental was under attack. That ambush resulted in the killing of six soldiers including Supt. Arnel Arpon the Police chief of the town of Guihulngan while wounding two other policemen. Clearly the CPP/NDF/NPA delegation talking peace with the Philippine government peace coordinators are not serious in their efforts to promote peace in the country.

Pres. Duterte said in the news, “Don’t be too confident because there is a strong resurgence…The NPA is coming back again. After this (Marawi siege), we will re-orient and target the NPA. They owe us huge debt. I don’t want to talk to them. They killed many of my soldiers. They killed many of my policemen.”Indeed if the Communists are not interested in peace, then by all means let’s give them a war.

The CPP has waged a terrorist campaign in our towns and cities for more than 40 years since the time of Pres. Ferdinand Marcos until the time of Pres. Duterte, who have bended back to accommodate his leftist friends. He even allowed the release of many NDF who were captured by the military in the past few years so they could participate in the Peace Talks. But unfortunately, the Communists do not want peace in this country.

Pres. Duterte added that the government had done nothing good in the eyes of the communist rebels. “So, to the enemies of the state – No. 1 is the Communist Party of the Philippines. No more talk, let us fight.” The President also said the NDF consultants who were temporarily released to participate in the peace talks would be re-arrested. It’s no time for Peace in this country!

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This doesn’t even include the “war on drugs” ….



Residents and police gather near the blanket-covered body of a man killed, along with four others, in an alleged police anti-drug operation in Manila, Philippines Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. Authorities said 3,200 alleged drug personalities have died in police operations from July 1, 2016 to June 20, 2017. AP Photo/Bullit Marquez


Image may contain: one or more people and people sitting

Credit: Raffy Lerma—Philippine Daily Inquirer

 (Contains links to several related articles)

Image may contain: outdoor
Discarded — The body of a dead Filipino girl — killed in President Duterte’s war on drugs — looks like it has been put out with the trash….. Presidential spokesman Abella said the war on drugs is for the next generation of Filipinos.