Posts Tagged ‘Mindanao’

Daesh militants waging fresh bid to set up Southeast Asian caliphate

February 23, 2018


Daesh-linked militants occupied Marawi City south of the Philippines for over five months before government forces retook control in October last year. (AFP)
MANILA: Months after being routed from the southern Philippine city of Marawi, militants are waging a fresh and deadly bid to set up a Southeast Asian caliphate in the same region, the military warned Friday.
The gunmen have mustered a force of about 200 fighters and fought a series of skirmishes with the security forces this year after government forces retook Marawi last October, Col. Romeo Brawner said.
“They have not abandoned their objective to create a caliphate in Southeast Asia,” said Brawner, the commander of a Marawi-based military task force.
“Mindanao is the most fertile ground,” he said, referring to the country’s southern region.
Struggling with widespread poverty and armed Muslim insurgencies seeking independence or self-rule, Mindanao must improve poor supervision of Islamic schools or madrasas where most young gunmen are recruited, he added.
He said the armed forces are retooling to meet the challenge of the Maute group, which occupied Marawi over five months and has pledged allegiance to the Middle East-based Daesh group.
Gunmen who escaped during the early days of the US-backed operation to recapture Marawi are leading the recruitment effort, flush with cash, guns and jewelry looted from the city’s banks and private homes, Brawner said.
The recruits are mostly locals, but an unspecified number of Indonesians, some with bomb-making skills, have recently arrived there, he said.
Mindanao military officials said the Maute gunmen murdered three traders in the town of Piagapo, near Marawi, in November last year.
Three militants were killed in Pantar, another neighboring town, on February 8, while three of the Piagapo merchants’ suspected killers were arrested in that town last month.
The military also reported skirmishes with the Maute gunmen in the towns of Masiu and Pagayawan near Marawi last month.
The renewed fighting came after President Rodrigo Duterte and other political leaders in the Mindanao region warned of a potential repeat of the siege of Marawi which claimed more than 1,100 lives.
Duterte has imposed martial law over Mindanao until the end of the year to curb the militants’ challenge.
Ebrahim Murad, head of the Philippines’ main Muslim rebel group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which signed a peace treaty with Manila in 2014, also warned Tuesday that militants were recruiting and could seize another Filipino city.

‘Marawi attackers set sights on 2nd city’

February 20, 2018


Al Haj Murad Ebrahim of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front said the plot to attack either Iligan or Cotabato city fell apart after the Marawi siege ended, but the extremists have continued to recruit new fighters to recover from their battle defeats.  Credit KJ Rosales

(Associated Press) – February 21, 2018 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Islamic State (IS) group-linked militants planned but failed to attack another southern Philippine city shortly after troops crushed their siege of Marawi last year, the leader of the country’s largest Muslim rebel group said yesterday.

Al Haj Murad Ebrahim of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front said the plot to attack either Iligan or Cotabato city fell apart after the Marawi siege ended, but the extremists have continued to recruit new fighters to recover from their battle defeats.

Murad said his group relayed intelligence about the planned attacks on the two cities, which are bustling commercial hubs, to government forces through ceasefire channels established during years of peace talks. He made the comments at a forum with foreign news correspondents, stressing how his group has helped battle terrorism.

President Duterte and military officials have also said that remnants of the radical groups behind the five-month siege that devastated Marawi were hunting for new recruits and plotting new attacks.

Duterte mentioned the threats in a speech late Monday in which he criticized Canada for imposing restrictions on the use of combat helicopters the Philippines has sought to buy. He has ordered the military to cancel the purchase.

“They are about to retake another city in the Philippines or to take another geographical unit but I couldn’t use the helicopters,” Duterte said, explaining that the Bell helicopters could not be employed in combat assaults.

Duterte has not elaborated on the nature of post-Marawi attack threats.

Murad’s group, which the military estimates has about 10,000 fighters scattered mostly in the marshy south, hopes Congress will pass legislation this year implementing a 2014 autonomy pact with the government.

He said the prospects appear bright, but added that the rebels are aware that the government failed to enforce peace pacts in the past, prompting disgruntled rebels to form breakaway groups.

The rebel leader warned that restive young Muslims in the southern Mindanao region, homeland of Muslims in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation, may be drawn to extremism if the peace efforts fail.

As IS group militants lose bases in the Middle East, “we will increasingly find them in our midst as they seek new strategic grounds where the hold of government is weak such as in Mindanao,” Murad said.

Last year, Murad said his group lost 24 fighters who were defending rural communities from breakaway militants who have aligned with the IS. “We know we cannot decisively win the war against extremism if we cannot win the peace in the halls of Congress,” Murad said.

The new Muslim autonomous zone, which generally covers five poor provinces, is to replace an existing one that is seen as a dismal failure. The new plan grants much more autonomy, power and guaranteed resources to the region.

The rebels have been fighting since the 1970s for Muslim self-rule in Mindanao in an insurrection that has killed about 150,000 combatants and civilians. The United States and other Western governments have backed the autonomy deal, partly to prevent the insurgency from breeding extremists.



Philippines: Islamic group warns of heightened extremism if Congress does not pass law

February 20, 2018

Murad Ebrahim, chairman of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), gestures as he speaks during a Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) forum in Manila on February 20, 2018. (AFP)
MANILA: If the Philippines Congress does not pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), extremism could rise in Mindanao, the chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) warned on Tuesday. The BBL follows the peace agreement signed by the government and the MILF in 2014.
Foreign fighters continue to arrive in Mindanao, said MILF Chairman Al Hajj Murad Ebrahim.
“They’re coming in from the porous borders in the south (Mindanao), from Malaysia, Indonesia,” he added.
“And it’s not only Malaysians and Indonesians… There are some Middle Eastern people coming in.”
The MILF received information that a Canadian of Arab origin, not older than 25, entered recently and went to Patikul in Sulu to join the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Ebrahim said.
“So this challenge with extremism is really very high, and… we really need to cooperate, everybody, in order to counter extremism,” he added.
Daesh continues to be a threat to the Philippines because it is being displaced in the Middle East, he said.
“We’re all aware of what happened in the Middle East. I think nobody wants it to happen here,” he added.
The chances of another Marawi siege cannot be ruled out because extremists “can still partner with many other small groups, like Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF),” Ebrahim said.
“We’ve seen the destruction in Marawi. In more than 40 years of conflict in Mindanao, this never happened,” he added.
“There has been no city or community that was turned into rubble completely. And this happened… when we’re already in the final stage of the peace process.”
While the MILF is doing its part to prevent terrorists from gaining ground on the island, “the best and most effective counter to them is when the peace process will succeed,” he said.
“We can’t decisively win the war against extremism if we can’t win the peace in the halls of Congress.”
The assistant secretary for peace and security, Dickson Hermoso, told Arab News that the BBL “will be passed based on the reaction of the majority of the people on the ground.”
He added: “They want the BBL, based on consultations by the Senate and congressional committees. There’s overwhelming support from the Bangsamoro people.”
The Senate plans to pass the bill by March 22, before it goes on recess, Hermoso said, expressing hope that it will be signed into law by the president before the end of next month.
Political analyst Ramon Casiple said he expects the BBL to be passed soon, but warned that if not, another Marawi siege is possible.
The president may call for a special session of Congress just to see the bill passed, Casiple added.

Another Marawi possible, Philippine rebel chief warns

February 20, 2018


© AFP / by Cecil MORELLA | Murad warns that another Marawi is possible
MANILA (AFP) – The chief of the Philippines’ main Muslim rebel group warned Tuesday that jihadists loyal to the Islamic State group, flush with looted guns and cash, could seize another Filipino city after Marawi last year.Murad Ebrahim has billed his Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which has made peace with the government, as a rival to IS for the hearts and minds of angry young Muslims in the impoverished south of the mainly Catholic nation.

Murad said the MILF was battling pro-IS groups for influence in schools as the jihadists worked to infiltrate madrasas (Islamic religious schools) and secular universities.

At the same time IS gunmen were making their way into the southern Philippines from Malaysia and Indonesia, he added, but gave no estimates.

A five-month siege flattened the city of Marawi on the southern island of Mindanao, the Philippines’ main Islamic centre, and claimed more than 1,100 lives.

Murad told reporters conditions on the ground were still ripe for another Marawi-style siege.

“This ISIS group continues to penetrate us because they are being displaced in the Middle East and they want to have another place,” Murad said, using an another name for IS.

“The chances of having another Marawi cannot be overruled.”

The Marawi attackers found and looted stockpiles of munitions, cash and jewellery from homes — some owned by MILF members — before the city was retaken by US-backed Filipino troops in October, he said.

“When they (MILF members) fled from Marawi they (could) not bring their vaults. That is where the ISIS was also able to get so much money and now they’re using it for recruitment,” he added.

“It’s very sad. In our country some people say buying weapons and ammunition is just like buying fish in the market.”

The combination of weak central government authority, the presence of rebel groups and long-running blood feuds means Mindanao is awash with weapons, he added.

Manila signed a peace deal with the 10,000-member MILF in 2014 after decades of Muslim rebellion in Mindanao for independence or self-rule that had claimed more than 100,000 lives.

Murad urged President Rodrigo Duterte’s government to speed up the passage of a Muslim self-rule law to flesh out the peace accord, warning pro-IS militants were recruiting for a new attack.

“If the (self-rule law) will not be passed now I think it will develop a situation where these extremist groups can recruit more adherents, because it will prove their theory that there is no hope in the peace process,” he said.

“Since they have the capability also to supply money and then they also have the ability to make explosives, bombs, they can just use these young recruits to work out their plan.”

by Cecil MORELLA

Philippines: Polling Shows People Reject Idea of “Revolutionary Government”

January 13, 2018


President Rodrigo Duterte had warned that he would declare a revolutionary government if “things go out of control.”

Presidential Photo/Ace Morandante, File
Ian Nicolas Cigaral ( – January 13, 2018 – 12:44pm

MANILA, Philippines — More Filipinos oppose the possibility of President Rodrigo Duterte declaring a revolutionary government, a Social Weather Station survey found.

Several times in his public remarks, Duterte has threatened to declare a revolutionary government — a form of self-coup disabling the current government system and Constitution — to quell a supposed conspiracy by his critics to destabilize his administration.

EXPLAINER: Can Duterte declare a revolutionary government?

But Duterte, in an apparent move to douse fears incited by his threat to revamp the government through extraconstitutional means, later called on the military to ignore talks about a revolutionary government.

According to SWS’s fourth quarter survey conducted on December 8 to 16, 39 percent of 1,200 Filipino adults polled said they disagree with the establishment of a revolutionary government.

Meanwhile, 31 percent agree while the remaining 30 percent were undecided.

Based on the findings, SWS said opposition to a revolutionary government was “stronger” among those who are dissatisfied with, or have little trust in Duterte.

Nonetheless, Duterte’s previous plan to create a revolutionary government got support from his home region of Mindanao with a net agreement score of +16.

That was followed by Metro Manila (net -7), Balance Luzon (net -16) and Visayas (net -17).

“Net agreement scores are at single-digit across locale, class, and sex, ranging from net -9 to +4,” the pollster also found.

Duterte earlier slammed those who supposedly took his remarks about founding a revolutionary government “out of context,” saying they just wanted to “draw publicity.”

According to the same SWS poll, 63 percent of respondents, most of whom were from Mindanao, believe that Duterte has plans to change the present government to a new one that he likes.

Awareness of Duterte’s plan to overhaul the government was higher among those with more years of formal schooling, SWS also found.

The survey likewise revealed that almost half of respondents (48 percent) think it is possible to have a revolutionary government under the present Philippine Constitution, while 27 percent said otherwise.

On the other hand, stronger opposition to a revolutionary government was seen among those unaware of Duterte’s plan and those who said such a declaration is not possible under the present Constitution.

READ: Supporters, counterprotesters cross paths as Duterte toys with revolutionary gov’t




Marawi City, The Philippines: Two months after “war” with Muslim rebels, unexploded ordnance and booby traps still not cleared

December 31, 2017

It has been over two months since the Philippine government declared victory over a well-armed and highly motivated cabal of Muslim militants that laid siege to Marawi city. The military has allowed half the city’s more than 200,000 residents to return, but not to the devastated half that is filled with unexploded ordnance and booby traps. What awaits the residents of Marawi is more uncertainty and the ever looming threat that the militants may soon return.

Image result for Philippines, marawi, after fighting stopped, photos

Marawi: Philippine government troops cleared the area from pro-Islamic State militant groups inside a war-torn area in Marawi city, southern Philippines October 23. ROMEO RANOCO/REUTERS

More than two months have passed since the Philippine government declared victory over a well-armed, well-organised and highly motivated cabal of Muslim militants that laid siege to Marawi.

But the lakeside city, a centre of Islamic heritage in the insurgency-wracked southern island of Mindanao, remains half-empty.

Although the military has allowed half the city’s more than 200,000 residents to return, the devastated half – a sprawling field of debris, unexploded ordnance and booby traps – is still no man’s land.

Post-conflict assessment teams are putting together a plan to rebuild Marawi. Experts estimate it may take anywhere from 50 billion to 90 billion pesos (S$1.3 billion to S$2.4 billion), but they are not sure how long the rebuilding process will take.

A senior military official said the soonest bomb-disposal units can clear the ruins of improvised explosive devices is in April, almost a year from when the militants launched the armed conflict.

For now, the multitude whose lives have been upended by the conflict will have to wait until they are allowed to return to a city pulverised into rubble and dust.

 Image may contain: sky, mountain, outdoor, nature and water
Ground zero in Marawi, where the fiercest fighting between militants and government troops took place. It now lies in ruins. PHOTOS: LYNE GRACE VERGARA, RAUL DANCEL

Even then, what awaits them is more uncertainty, and the ever looming threat that the militants may soon return. Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in October that six battalions of troops would remain in Marawi amid President Rodrigo Duterte’s calls for continued vigilance.


Marawi, about a three-hour ride from the nearest airport in Laguindingan town, snakes through provincial districts that are slowly getting a taste of the Philippine success story: A smooth highway, a bounty of tourists, cable TV, schools, a cement plant, a McDonald’s restaurant here and there.

About 30km from Marawi is Iligan, the nearest city and the halfway point from Laguindingan. Here, sheets of tarpaulin, at least 1m wide and 0.5m tall, line the roads every few metres or so, proclaiming the achievement of some Muslim’s son or daughter: a newly minted doctor, nurse, criminologist,engineer.

“It’s in the Maranao culture, to take pride in education, and to serve notice to other clans. People here say that if you have a child who passed a licensure exam, and you did not put up a streamer, you do not love that child,” said driver Jamil Tuano, 35, referring to the ethnic Muslim tribe that forms the bulk of Marawi’s population.

This is why Marawi is sometimes called, jokingly, “the city of streamers and tarpaulins”, he said.

Closer to the city of Marawi, shades of Islamic life fill the landscape: roadside mosques; women in hijab and niqab; men with white, rounded taqiyahs on their heads.

But there are also reminders that this was a conflict zone: trucks filled with soldiers; checkpoints everywhere; a constant traffic of vehicles with markings of aid groups and non-governmental organisations.

On May 23, about 1,000 gunmen stormed and seized large parts of Marawi in an audacious bid to turn the city into a “wilayah”, or province, of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). What followed was a war that raged for five months.

By the time the Philippine military declared victory on Oct 23, more than 1,000 militants, government troops and civilians were dead, half of Marawi lay in ruins, and about 400,000 people living in and near the city were displaced.


Beyond the arch that marks Marawi’s borders, life was again stirring when The Sunday Times was there for six days from Dec 12. At the Amai Pakpak hospital, among the first government buildings to be attacked by the militants, there was a constant shuffle of patients, nurses and doctors.

At the sprawling Mindanao State University (MSU), youths loitered along hallways in boisterous groups, chatting, reading, playing the guitar, or checking out someone’s motorcycle.

Inside the university’s campus, which is a city in itself, a business district buzzed with commerce. Long queues were forming in restaurants, and the marketplace was buzzing with activity.

But from across a bridge just a few paces from city hall, devastation met the eye. Referred to either as “ground zero” or the “main battle area”, this was where the fiercest fighting between government troops and the militants took place.

No one is allowed to go there, as security forces continue to sweep the ruins for booby traps and explosives.

Most of those who used to live there are now staying in overcrowded, barely liveable evacuation centres, where resentment has been festering.

“It’s very cold here at night, and we’re sleeping on a hard surface. It’s hard on the body. What we need are mattresses because all we have to sleep on are straw mats,” said Mr Riga Saadodin Panda, 21, an evacuee from Wawalayan Marinaut district, inside ground zero. He and his relatives fled their homes when the militants began herding hostages in the early days of the conflict. They were sent to an evacuation centre in nearby Saguiaran town, where they were given quarters, with over 200 other families. It is located beneath a barebones gymnasium the size of two basketball courts.

They have been there ever since, living off food rations and handouts. Some have started selling donated items like canned sardines, to buy things they need more of, such as diapers.

“We’re sick of sardines,” one evacuee was heard telling a Red Cross volunteer.

A few have been trying to eke out extra money by selling cigarettes, candies and other small items they managed to buy with cash they received from doing menial work for aid groups.

But it is the uncertainty that frustrates them most.

There has been no word on how soon they can return to their homes, or if they will be allowed to at all. Most of them do not own titles to the land they occupied, which is part of a military reservation, and they worry that the military is keen on reclaiming this land.

There has also been no assurance that the government will extend financial aid or loans to help them rebuild their homes.


Frustration has also been growing among those who have managed to return to their homes.

“Our houses were destroyed, looted. When we left, our houses had things in them. When we returned, they were empty,” said Mr Abdullah Sumndad, 45, a “sancopang Marawi”, the equivalent of a datuk.

Ms Nikki de la Rosa, deputy country manager at the World Bank-funded think-tank International Alert, said “a looming land issue will happen with overlapping themes”.

She added: “Revenge killings and clan feuding have been there. The manner by which the reconstruction process will be undertaken should consider identity-based conflict. Otherwise, that will release other sources of violence in the time that people go back to Marawi.”

Mr Francisco Lara, International Alert’s country manager, said: “The big question is really, in terms of looming sources of violence: What role can be given to clans in the rebuilding process?”

He said the government seems to be dealing with Marawi in the same way it dealt with supertyphoon Haiyan in 2013. “Is the government treating this as a natural calamity? I hope not. As much of the work has to be on how to build resilient communities to threats of extremism, not only resilient to rise up again, but able to push back.”

Mr Meher Khatcherian, a protection delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said: “In a conflict area, people need to be assured a lot more security wise, and they need to understand what kind of response is needed, to see something more clear proposed to them put in place, because they can be traumatised, because they have lost a lot, because they might be reluctant to come back to an area, because they’re afraid the same could happen to them again.”


Ms Norma Labao, 67, a retired teacher, was spotted pulling down the steel sheets that cover her store.

“The situation is better now, since the last week of November,” she said. She has managed to re-open her small laundry shop.

“Business has been okay, especially now that it’s always raining,” she said. She earns up to 40 pesos per kilo of clothes and bedding.

Mr Abdullah Mangotara, 32, too, has begun picking up the pieces. He has opened a new Potato Corner’s outlet, offering the fast food franchise’s fries, inside MSU. He lost the first one when war broke out.

“We lost so much. We’re back to zero. The war brought the reality that there is a risk to doing business here.” But he is staying, although he is sending his children away from Marawi “for safety reasons”.

That undercurrent of fear runs across Marawi.

Ms Labao said she is ready to leave at any time. “We hear rumours. We had to leave all of a sudden when the fighting began. Now, we are prepared. If anything happens, we’re ready to go.”



A boy and his sister play near a building in Marawi’s Basak Malutlut district, from where terrorist leaders Isnilon Hapilon and brothers Omarkhayam and Abdullah Maute are said to have plotted the siege of this southern Philippine city.

After the terrorists overran Marawi in May, it took the military five months to retake it, street by bloody street. Two months on, only half of its 200,000 residents have been able to return home.

The devastated half – a sprawling field of debris, unexploded ordnance and booby traps – is still no man’s land.

Our Philippines Correspondent Raul Dancel reports on how Marawi is trying to regain its footing.


Philippines: 17,000 families still in evacuation centers in storm-hit areas — Next storm brewing

December 31, 2017
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A general view of the flooded Municipality of Kabacan, North Cotabato, on the southern island of Mindanao on December 23, 2017, after Typhoon Vinta dumped torrential rains across the island. The death toll from a tropical storm in the southern Philippines climbed swiftly to 133 on December 23, as rescuers pulled dozens of bodies from a swollen river, police said.  Ferdinandh Cabrera/AFP

MANILA, Philippines — Around 17,000 families may welcome 2018 in evacuation centers due to Typhoon Vinta, which caused widespread damage across the country earlier this month.

There were 17,302 families in 90 evacuation centers as of Sunday morning, the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council said.

A total of 168,081 families, or around 794,613 people, were affected in 1,151 barangays in the Mimaropa, Central Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao, Davao, Soccsksargen, and Caraga regions and in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The tropical storm destroyed 3,584 houses and damaged 3,129.

Vinta left the Philippine Area of Responsibility on the morning of December 24, after battering Mindanao and triggering landslides in Cagayan de Oro City, and in several towns in Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga Sibugay provinces.

Initial reports from different local government agencies put the death toll at more than 230, but the NDRRMC said that it is still verifying the numbers.

READ: Vietnam escapes worst typhoon that battered the Philippines

The NDRRMC however noted that flooding in the 239 areas affected by the typhoon had subsided by Sunday morning.

The following areas remain under the state of calamity:

  • Tambulig, Zamboanga del Sur
  • Province of Lanao del Norte
  • Labason, Zamboanga del Norte
  • Salug, Zamboanga del Norte
  • Kabasalan, Zamboanga Sibugay
  • Balabac, Palawan
  • Aborlan, Palawan
  • Bataraza, Palawan
  • Gutalac, Zamboanga del Norte
  • Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte
  • Baungon, Bukidnon
  • Province of Lanao del Sur

The agency also said that the Department of Social Welfare and Development has given worth of P29.8 million in assistance to families affected by the typhoon.

The United Nations Children’s Fund earlier said that it stands ready to provide a relief and deploy field team in the wake of Vinta. The European Union, meanwhile, has pledged P34 million (€570,000) worth of humanitarian aid to Vinta-affected families and communities.

READ: High ‘Vinta’ death toll ‘unacceptable’ amid improved disaster preparedness — Binay

NDRRMC spokesperson Mina Marasigan also stressed the public should heed warnings on a new low pressure area that Pagasa is monitoring.

According to the state weather bureau, the new weather system is expected to develop into a tropical depression within the next 48 hours.

Pagasa also said that new LPA “may cross Mindanao beginning Monday until Tuesday and bring moderate to heavy rains which may trigger flash floods and landslides.”


Philippines: President Duterte won’t rule out nationwide martial law

December 13, 2017
President Duterte peers through the broken muzzle of a rifle after weapons confiscated during the Marawi siege were destroyed at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig yesterday. Krizjohn Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — Martial law in Mindanao can be expanded outside the region if enemies of the state converge and consolidate forces to topple the government, President Duterte said last night, with a warning to terrorists and rebels that the government would be ruthless against those who sow terror in the country.

Backed by the authority to impose military rule in Mindanao for one more year, Duterte did not discount the possibility that martial law could be expanded to the entire country.

“The government will not wait until the dying days of its existence. The government can always prevent that disaster… to what extent, level of atrocities or attacks, it is not for me to say… but the armed forces or the police,” Duterte said at a press briefing in Taguig.

He said he would not wait until the enemies are about to “slit our throat.”

“The existence of our democracy is not the comments of the opposition or those who are against me politically,” Duterte said.

“I will not wait for that day, for that 25th hour, for the hands of the clock to strike, for the bells to toll, to sound your knell of grief…,” he added, paraphrasing the words of author Ernest Hemingway.

The Chief Executive said he would not allow the enemies of the state to infringe on the rights of the people and destroy democracy.

“It is up to the enemies of the state… if the NPA say they are creating in mass numbers, they create trouble and they are armed… and about to destroy its government,” he said, referring to the New People’s Army.

No Christmas truce

Duterte does not see any reason to observe the traditional Christmas truce with the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, NPA, because the rebels might just take advantage of the situation to consolidate their forces.

“The only reason is you’d give advantage to the enemy. They will take advantage of that lull, giving space, time and motion to move against government forces,” he said.

The President said any decision to expand martial law will depend on the recommendation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.

“What makes it really very dangerous is if it reaches a level of point of no return for everybody. I will assess or evaluate as the facts come in,” he said.

Duterte noted that the soldiers and the police will be given “rotation” to allow them to spend time with their families.

While he understands the soldiers’ plight, he said members of security forces do not have that kind of luxury of going to their families, even during special occasions.

“The terrorists and the communists are the same. They kill with impunity and rob people,” he said.

Saying that the extremist terrorists and rebels are no different in terms of impunity, Duterte warned that these criminals cannot escape the long arm of the law.

Following the one-year extension of martial law, Duterte hinted that the government forces will be ruthless, if needed, just to prevent the enemies of the state from converging as one in fighting his administration.

“Yes, because they are terrorists… They are there in Mindanao… It’s a different thing there, there is a policy going on there. There is martial law… They are allowed to detain you for so many hours if you are alive. If you are dead, you should be in a funeral (parlor),” he said.

“It is an existing one. It is violence being spearheaded by the NPAs and those who quest for independence, the low sector of the MI(LF) and the MN (LF),” he added, stressing the need to address the issue.

Duterte said Mindanao would be open to all sorts of criminals and noted the danger that the terrorists might travel around Southeast Asia.

With the drug menace adding to the complexity of the problem, Duterte expressed concern that the government will be facing multiple enemies.

“They are scattered everywhere where they kidnap so many people… the vicious cycle of criminality, then Maute and then the remnants of terrorists,” he said.

“That is why Mindanao remains to be… the flashpoint for trouble.”

Duterte shrugged off criticisms hurled against him.

“No rebellion? Count the number of deaths. There is actually rebellion in Mindanao, fighting is going on,” he said.

Duterte thanks Congress

Duterte yesterday expressed gratitude to Congress for its imprimatur on the one-year extension of martial law and the suspension of the writ of heabeas corpus in Mindanao.

“I would like to thank Congress for understanding the plight of the Filipino,” he said a few hours after the supermajority in the Senate and the House of Representatives approved his request.

Duterte declared martial law last May 23 when Islamic State (IS)-inspired terrorists raised flags and attacked Marawi City on the same day. It was extended until Dec. 31 this year after the 60-day provision under the law.

As President, Duterte said he can just order troops to go after the threat groups but he needs the authority to come from Congress.

“Without martial law powers, it would be difficult for us, we can detain people for only a few hours. You think you can really solve the crime of rebellion?” he said, referring to the provisions under the prescribed period on the detention of suspects under current laws.

Duterte spoke before members of the military where he led the ceremonial destruction of weapons seized from the enemies during the operations in Marawi that the Chief Executive proclaimed as liberated from terrorists last Oct. 23.

The one-year extension, according to Duterte, is a “big window for all of us” to address the problem.

“I am not a dreamer but the reality of one year, if it’s one year, if the fighting is continuous, you’ll run out of people and weapons,” he said.

The commander-in-chief said he is ready to deploy the military’s 23 new attack helicopters to neutralize the enemies.

Now that he has acquired attack helicopters, Duterte said he will deploy them in Mindanao to turn the terrorists into “practice targets.”

“Patayan pala ang gusto ninyo (So, you want killing),” he said, adding that he wanted to purchase 50 more such helicopters if the government has enough funds.

Aside from the communists, Duterte appealed for more time to reach an agreement with the two Moro groups in the country.

“Bear with me, I will be dwelling on reality,” he added.

Prior to this, Malacañang called on Filipinos to continue to support the move to extend martial law in Mindanao in a bid to quell the continuing rebellion in the region.

“Public safety is our primordial concern; thus, we ask the public to stand behind the administration and rally behind our defenders to quell the continuing rebellion in Mindanao,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.

He also outlined the reasons such as the urgent need to eradicate the DAESH-inspired Da’awatul Islamiyah Waliyatul Masriq and other like-minded local/foreign terrorist groups and armed lawless groups, and the communist terrorists and their coddlers, supporters and financiers; and ensure the unhampered rehabilitation of war-torn Marawi and the lives of its residents.

“This is everyone’s shared responsibility. Together, we will prevail,” Roque said.


Philippines Faces Steep Task Rebuilding City Wrested From Islamic Militants

December 10, 2017

Battle for Marawi left southern city ruined and residents displaced, fueling fears of new Islamic insurgency if government doesn’t hold to promises

Part of the Grand Mosque in the southern Philippine city of Marawi was heavily damaged by more than five months of intense airstrikes and firefights between government troops and Islamic State-inspired militants.

MARAWI, Philippines—The Philippine military scored a victory against international extremism when it drove Islamic State-linked fighters from this city in October, but that success is now in peril as the government discovers as many pitfalls in rebuilding Marawi as in liberating it.

The city was decimated in the battle, fought over five months with U.S. surveillance support. The government is now turning to the task of rebuilding and resettling nearly 400,000 people displaced by the fighting, while it pushes for new legislation that would give greater autonomy to marginalized Muslim-majority areas of Mindanao, the Philippines’ southernmost main island, in the hope of deterring future conflict.

How it meets those challenges, residents and community leaders say, will determine whether the victory in Marawi can be a springboard to longer-term peace or end up providing new fervor for an insurgency inspired by Islamic State.

A Philippine government soldier inspecting the destruction caused in Marawi by months of heavy fighting between the military and Islamic militants.

The rebuilding process is beginning to fray before new bricks are laid, as sentiment turns against the government for what many residents see as its heavy-handed use of airstrikes in the campaign to recapture Marawi.

“We hate ISIS, but we also know the one who destroyed our homes, our properties, is the military, by using the airstrikes,” said Agakhan Sharief, a Muslim leader who served as an intermediary in unsuccessful talks between the militants and the government. “If they don’t fulfill what they have promised to the victims of Marawi city, [residents] could be turning to more radicalization.”

Officials say Islamist groups are already seeking to recruit young men from the many refugee camps crowded with people who lost their livelihoods in the battle.

Government soldiers in trucks last month examine the damage caused by months of fighting in the city of Marawi.

The cramped conditions in the camps feed frustration. Fever and flu are rampant and jobs are scarce. Each family is given either an outdoor tent or a tight space in a hall, separated from the next family by a thin piece of shoulder-high plywood. While food and water are provided, privacy is impossible. Many residents own nothing but the clothes they were wearing when they fled.

Much of Marawi remains closed as soldiers sweep for improvised explosives. The city was attacked on May 23 by hundreds of militants funded and inspired by Islamic State, who were joined by dozens of foreign fighters seeking to declare a caliphate, or Islamic kingdom. At least 165 Philippine security personnel and 47 civilians died in the ensuing battle, as well as nearly 1,000 militants.

Aerial bombardment left the city in ruins. The worst-hit area is almost devoid of life, save for wild dogs and mosquitoes. Every building has been severely damaged, with the belongings of former residents strewn on roadsides and hanging from windows.

Some people have been allowed to return to the few reopened parts of the city, only to find rubble where their homes used to be.

Hadj Esmail M. Abaton, 77, returned to his house in late November to find almost everything destroyed. The metal roof had fallen in, charred belongings dotted the floor and broken furniture was rusting away. Like most Marawi residents, the former textiles trader had no insurance.

“When we saw the house we cried because all of our effort and all our belongings are gone,” he said, flanked by four generations of relatives who lived in the house with him. “This is not just a house. This is our roots and all our hard work.”

While Mr. Abaton said he didn’t know who was responsible for destroying his house, his younger relatives blame the military. Found in the rubble were the remains of an artillery shell, a weapon used by the Philippine armed forces but not the militants.

Maisara Palala, 70, resting last month with her disabled son, Tao, 30, inside their makeshift shelter at an evacuation center in the town of Pantar outside Marawi.

A spokesman for the military didn’t directly address queries about public opinion or the airstrikes. The military has defended its use of airstrikes, noting the high-risk nature of close-quarters urban warfare.

Many displaced citizens lack documentation proving ownership of their land and worry it will be taken away when the city is rebuilt, though the government has assured them of fair treatment. Even if they can lay claim to their former homes, the process will take longer than many think, officials say. Millions of tons of rubble will need clearing, a dangerous task in light of the unexploded ordnance and improvised explosives left in structures.

“The reconstruction will take years,” said Felix Castro, a retired general now charged by the government with coordinating reconstruction. “It is very difficult considering the rubble. This is why the civilians are not allowed to return.”

In an interview in the bullet-strafed remains of Marawi’s Grand Mosque, Mr. Castro said the government hasn’t worked out how much the process will cost, though some estimates place it at up to $1.8 billion. He said a master plan for the city’s reconstruction is expected by March. The U.S. has promised $14.5 million in rehabilitation aid.

Dsiplaced Marawi residents living last month under cramped conditions in a makeshift evacuation center in Balo-i, north of Marawi.

Meanwhile, nearly 1,200 temporary shelters are being built for displaced people and more than 2,700 permanent houses are planned, to be funded by an undisclosed private donation.

Some residents say the government failed to heed warnings that the militants’ offensive was looming, such as local radio broadcasts warning of an attack and text messages militants sent urging their families to take shelter. There are signs the government was aware of the threat but didn’t adequately prepare to confront it. In December 2016, more than five months before the battle, President Rodrigo Duterte, in a show of bravado, told a business conference the militants “said that they will go down upon Marawi to burn the place, and I said: ‘go ahead, do it.’”

The government’s spokesman didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.

Recent reports from human-rights groups about soldiers torturing or executing civilians have further fanned hostility toward the liberators. The military said it welcomes any probe and doesn’t tolerate rights violations.

Some displaced Marawi residents working last month to build temporary shelters outside the city.

Underlying this broad distrust are decades of marginalization of the minority Muslim population of the southern Philippines by successive governments, including the colonial authorities of Spain and the U.S., which governed the country successively for about 350 years.

That experience spawned dozens of separatist groups before the recent wave of violent extremists inspired by Islamic State. Once-violent older groups that have rejected the extremists, such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, or MILF, have sought peace in exchange for autonomous government.

An agreement on self-rule for the small majority-Muslim part of the country has been reached, but the Philippine Congress has been slow to pass the necessary legislation. MILF leaders warn they could lose control over their fighters if the legislation doesn’t pass.

The battle with Islamic State-linked groups has moved to marshlands south of Marawi, where MILF and government troops are allied in a firefight against militants who either didn’t join the battle in Marawi or escaped it.

Mr. Duterte has urged lawmakers to move fast on the legislation granting self-rule to the Muslim regions. If it doesn’t pass soon, he said in October, “we are headed for trouble.”

A government soldier takes in Marawi’s destruction.

Write to Jake Maxwell Watts at


Roadside bomb injures 7 Marines in southern Philippines

December 9, 2017

Members of Philippine Marines walk next to an armored fighting vehicle (AFV) as they advance their position in Marawi City, Philippines, May 28, 2017. (File photo by Reuters)

MANILA: Seven Marines were injured in a roadside bomb explosion before dawn on Saturday in a village in Maguindanao province in the southern Philippines.

This comes as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) recommended the extension of martial law in Mindanao amid continued threats posed by militant groups such as the Daulah Islamiyah, the Maute Group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Abu Sayyaf Group.
Members of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 5 were reportedly on patrol when a roadside bomb exploded.
The wounded Marines were rushed to hospital. Authorities have yet to identify the perpetrators.
AFP spokesman Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla said Maute remains a threat, although its capabilities and manpower have been significantly degraded.
“Those who survived (the Marawi) siege remain at large, and are attempting to recover by recruiting (others),” he said.
Padilla also cited an increase in violent acts perpetrated by communist rebels following President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration to formally end peace talks with the National Democratic Front, the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.
“Increasing violence initiated by the left is something to watch out for, and something we have to prepare for and confront,” Padilla said.
Zia Alonto Adiong, Lanao Del Sur first district assemblyman, said Maute remains a threat despite Duterte declaring Marawi liberated from the Daesh-backed group.
“Peace and order have yet to be stabilized” in Marawi, he told Arab News. “If it requires martial law to be extended in order to guarantee the safety of our people and that recovery efforts won’t be interrupted, then let’s have it extended.”
Duterte placed Mindanao island under martial law on May 23, a day after the Marawi siege began. It is due to expire on Dec. 31.