Posts Tagged ‘Russia’

Duterte fires Dangerous Drugs Board chief for ‘contradicting official government’ stats (that were never correct in the first place)

May 24, 2017
/ 08:56 PM May 24, 2017
rodrigo duterte

DUTERTE ARRIVES FROM RUSSIA / MAY 24, 2017 — President Rodrigo Duterte arrives from his visit to Russia at NAIA Terminal 2.INQUIRER PHOTO / RICHARD A. REYES

President Rodrigo Duterte fired the chairman of the Dangerous Drugs Board for allegedly using contradicting statistics.

“And I would like to put to task publicly this (Benjamin) Reyes. You know five years ago, Santiago who was the PDEA chief gave us a figure of three million,” Duterte said after arriving in Manila from Moscow.

“Ang binigay ni Reyes sa chairman sa Dangerous Board, ‘yung accomplishment ni Bato ng PNP. That’s 1.8. And dala-dala ng babae was 1.8. When I have been telling everybody, everything that there’s about four million drug addict(s),” the President said.

The Dangerous Drugs Board has been using a 2015 survey that says there were 1.8 million drug users in the country.

“You’re fired today. Get out of the service,” Duterte said. “You do not contradict your own government…You’re just a civilian member of a board.”

Duterte said Reyes is not an “implementor of the law.”

“The correct count is the police and the PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency),” Duterte said.

In an interview with ANC on Tuesday, Reyes used the statistics of 1.8 million drug users but he also reportedly said that they have information that the number can go up to 3 million or 4 million.

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Duterte fires drugs board chair for ‘contradicting government’

The Dangerous Drugs Board shares its Quezon City office with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. File photo

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday announced he was firing Dangerous Drug Board Chairman Benjamin Reyes for “contradicting your own government” by presenting drug user data based on a government-commissioned survey.

“I would like to put to task publicly this Reyes,” the president said in a speech upon his return from Russia, a trip that had to be cut short because of the crisis in Marawi City in Lanao del Sur and the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.


Duterte said that former Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Dionisio Santiago told him five years ago that the country had an estimated 3 million drug users.

It is unclear what Santiago’s basis was since, according to a Rappler report on government drug data, the PDEA did not release data to the public except in 2008, when there were 1.7 million drug users in the Philippines.

“Ang binigay ni Reyes sa chairman sa dangerous board [sic]… yung accomplishment ni Bato… ‘yung PNP. That’s 1.8 (million),” the president said.

But the figure of 1.8 million is actually from the DDB’s 2015 Nationwide Survey on the Nature and Extent of Drug Abuse in the Philippines, the results of which were released in September 2016.

READ: 4M drug users ‘in the realm of possibility,’ DDB insists

If anything, Reyes, in an interview with in February, tried to justify Duterte’s figure of 4 million drug users.

“Pero may margin of error kasi iyan na plus or minus five percent, so it can even go as high as—so 2.3 plus 5 percent, that’s 7.3 percent. That’s even higher than the global average,” Reyes said then. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates a global average of 5.2 percent.


But Alyson Yap, a full-time member of the faculty at Ateneo de Manila University’s Department of Quantitative Methods and Information Technology, said in February that Reyes’ assessment was incorrect and that the chairman was making a dangerous conclusion.

Yap, who teaches combined statistics and operations management, said that using the the rate and confidence level used in the DDB report, the range would actually be “between 0.0185 to 0.0267 or between 1.85 percent to 2.67 percent only.” That is around 1.4 million to 2 million people.

“Dala-dala nung babae, 1.8 … na I have been telling everybody that there is about 4 million drug addicts… and here comes a chairman… you’re fired,” the president said on Wednesday.

Duterte may have been referring to UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard, who has been critical of the government’s drug war, and who was at a drug policy forum at the University of the Philippines this month. Reyes, as DDB chair, also spoke at the forum.

“You do not contradict your own government,” the president said.

The president said that the figures of the PDEA and the Philippine National Police is the “correct count,” adding the “civilian” Reyes is not an “implementer” of the law.

The Dangerous Drugs Board, which is attached to the Office of the President, sets the country’s drug policy. The PDEA and PNP are technically civilian agencies.

PDEA: 4.7M drug users in Philippines

At a forum earlier this month, the PDEA claimed that the number of drug users is at 4.7 million.

The DDB survey indicated that more than 4.74 million persons in the country, or 6.1 percent of the population aged 10-69, have used illegal drugs at least once in their lifetime.

But, when sent PDEA a Freedom of Information request on what the basis for the estimate of 4.7 million was, the PDEA said the DDB and the PNP would be able to answer the questions better.

In a response to, PDEA Director Adzhar Albani, a PDEA 11 decision maker, said:

You asked for Basis for PDEA estimate of  4.7 million drug users.

The 4.7 million drug users is based on the the survey conducted by the Dangerous Drug Board itself plus based on the survey & operations as well of the Philippine National Police dubbed as the “Oplan Tokhang”

Please note that we are only able to provide such information to what you have requested. If you wish to get a copy of the data on how they conducted their survey, parameters used etc,  you may address your request directly to the Dangerous Drugs Board and/or the Philippine National Police.


The 1.8 million figure from the DDB survey was also the basis for the PNP’s drug targets for 2016.

Peace and Freedom Note: Duerte may think the higher number of drug users may give him a better excuse for his human rights abuses, thus lessening criticism from the UN, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. He may also be hoping that the higher number will encourage more financial assistance from China and Russia.

Duterte’s real motives behind imposing Philippine martial law — Abuse of power — Expanding military powers — “I will solve all that ails us.”

May 24, 2017

Rodrigo Duterte is likely to extend the recently declared martial law to areas other than Mindanao following violent clashes between police and the militants linked with “Islamic State.” Ana P Santos reports from Manila.

Philippinen Soldaten auf der Straße nach Marawi (Reuters/R. Ranoco)

After declaring martial law in Mindanao province on Tuesday, President Rodrigo Duterte cut short his Russia visit and hinted Wednesday he could extend the state of emergency to other parts of the country.

“I may decide to expand the area to include the Visayas because it is just walking distance (from Mindanao) and they can always escape there to begin another terrorist activity,” Duterte said, referring to militants linked with self-proclaimed “Islamic State” (IS) terrorist group.

Duterte also said he might put the entire country under martial law and impose curfew in several conflict-ridden areas.

Philippinen Rodrigo Duterte (Reuters/E. Acayan)Firebrand Duterte is known for his aggressive political style

“We have reached dangerous levels. With martial law, I will solve all Mindanao problems,” said the president, who is often in news for his aggressive political style and a violent anti-drug campaign .

The Philippine constitution limits the martial law period up to 60 days but Duterte said it could last up to a year.

On Tuesday, violent clashes broke out between security forces and militants linked with IS, leaving at least one police officer dead.

The bloodshed began when police and soldiers raided an apartment in the southern city of Marawi where Isnilon Hapilon, an alleged leader of the notorious Abu Sayyaf gang and the Philippine head of IS, was suspected of hiding.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte reviews guards just outside Moscow late Monday. He announced Tuesday night he would be cutting his Russia visit short due to violence on Mindanao, where he declared martial law.

Pavel Golovkin/AP

Abuse of power

“The imposition of martial law will send a strong signal to militants that the government is in control of the situation. But the authorities have to rely on the security forces that are overstretched, and if you remove constitutional protections, there is a danger of power abuse,” Jose Antonio, a Manila-based security analyst and military historian, told DW.

“Duterte didn’t need to declare martial law to address the situation. But this is typical of his character. His style of governance is authoritarian and he does not tolerate dissent. He is moving the country toward a complete martial law,” Antonio added.

Opposition parties have warned Duterte against expanding military powers.

“The reported declaration of martial law in Mindanao is subject to revocation by the members of the House of Representatives and Senate. This cannot be set aside by the president,” Congressman Edcel Lagman said in a statement.

Philippinen Soldat mit Steckbrief eines Abu Sayyaf-Mitglieds (Reuters/M. B. Navales)

The bloodshed began when police raided an apartment in Marawi where Isnilon Hapilon was suspected of hiding

Chaos in Marawi

Meanwhile, thousands of Marawi residents are fleeing to safer areas. The markets are closed and there is no electricity in the city. People are worried about running low on food and other life-saving supplies.

“Everyone is trying to get out of the city. People are using trucks and cars to leave the city but many roads have been closed off by the military,” Halil Amerol, regional director of the Bangsamoro Development Agency, told DW.

Nadia, an English teacher in the city, was one of those who tried to get out of the city after hearing about the military’s possible air strikes.

“We couldn’t leave because we didn’t have a vehicle. We couldn’t walk because I have five small cousins with me. I’m trapped here. We have to stay here for at least another night,” Nadia told DW, adding that Marawi was a small and densely-populated city and the airstrikes would be devastating.

The Philippine National Police confirmed Wednesday that four public buildings, including a prison in Marawi, were set on fire by militants. Six police officers have reportedly been killed.

Four civilians have been taken hostage. Among them is Father Chito Suganob, who was taken hostage in the Cathedral of Our Lady Help of Christians by the members of the Maute group.

“At the time of his capture, Father Chito was performing his religious duties. His capture violates the norms of a conflict,” said Father Soc Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference.


National Public Radio (NPR)

Gunfire erupted between Philippine security forces and militants in Marawi City in the mid-afternoon Tuesday. By the time the sun had set on the small southern city, President Rodrigo Duterte had declared martial law in the region and vowed to end his diplomatic trip to Moscow early.

In the hours between, violence and confusion consumed the community, as armed men linked with the Maute Group occupied the Amai Pakpak Medical Center and several other major buildings. Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who is in Moscow with Duterte, told a news conference that militants even set fire to some of those buildings — including the city’s jail, a local Catholic church and Dansalan college.


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

It was not a lapse in military intelligence that caused the clashes, Lorenzana said, but rather a failure to “appreciate” the intelligence collected.

Gunfights ensued, killing at least two soldiers and one police officer and injuring 12 other members of the security forces. Meanwhile, photographs purporting to show buildings aflame and black flags raised above public buildings hit social media.

Philippine authorities assert the situation is under control — though they have told residents in Marawi City to remain indoors and summoned reinforcements from neighboring regions to redouble their efforts to reclaim the city Wednesday morning.

For now, “the whole of Marawi City is blacked out,” Lorenzana said. “There is no light and there are Maute snipers all around.” He noted that militants still occupy a central street in the city.

Hapilon, the man whom Philippine soldiers had sought at the start of the operation, “allegedly served as deputy or second in command for the foreign terrorist organization, Abu Sayyaf Group,” according to the FBI. The bureau has placed him on its own list of Most Wanted Terrorists.

Abu Sayyaf and Maute, a relatively new offshoot of the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front, have pledged allegiance to ISIS and vowed further violence against the majority-Catholic country.

Or, as Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano put it Tuesday: They are groups that “have been auditioning for recognition in ISIS.”

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said that as of 10 p.m. local time, Duterte had declared martial law for all of Mindanao, the southern island where both Marawi City and Davao — the president’s home city — reside. The restriction is set to last about 60 days.

As the Philippine news service Rappler reports, the declaration of martial law actually fulfills a warning made by the president just days ago.

“Please do not force my hand into it. I hate to do it. I do not want to do it,” Duterte said in a speech last Friday in Davao, according to Rappler. “But if there will be loss of lives needlessly, and without reason, just to kill, kill, and kill, I will declare martial law in Mindanao.

“And if I declare martial law in Mindanao, I will solve all that ails the island.”


Image result for Duterte and Xi Jinping, photos

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping greet each during a bilateral meeting at the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit in Lima, Peru on November 19. REY BANIQUET/ Presidential Photo

Peace and Freedom Note:

Duterte may be thinking he’ll look a lot stronger and in control to China and Russia if he extends martial law — allowing a speed up in military support and infrastructure building. This will also create further distance between the U.S. and the Philippines, which seems to be his plan.

For the Philippine people this may mean a dreadful loss of human rights and the loss of the resources of the South China Sea. The Philippines could become a kind of client to China and Russia…. But Duterte probably would see that as a good thing that would open Chinese and Russian markets sooner.

Image result for Duterte and Putin, photos

President Rodrigo Duterte and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet for the first time during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Leaders’ Meeting in Lima, Peru, on November 19. ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./ Presidential Photo

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Philippine Islamists beheaded local police chief, President Duterte says

May 24, 2017
Philippine Islamists beheaded local police chief, Duterte says
Philippine Islamists beheaded local police chief, Duterte says

Manila (Philippines) (AFP) – Islamist militants rampaging through a southern Philippine city beheaded a local police chief, President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday.

He said the attack occurred near the southern city of Marawi, which is under siege by Islamic militants, as justification for imposing martial law across the southern third of the country.

“The chief of police in Malabang on his way home, going back he was stopped by a checkpoint manned by terrorists and I think they decapitated them right then and there,” Duterte he told a news conference.

Fighting erupted Tuesday after Philippines security forces raided a house in Marawi where they believed Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the infamous Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom gang and Philippine head of Islamic State, was hiding.

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

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

Police said an officer and two soldiers had been killed in the fighting, with at least eight others injured.

It was unclear if the ambush on the local police chief was included in the official tally.

Duterte said continuing sporadic skirmishes showed the group’s “capability to sow terror and unleash harassment and inflict destruction” across the country’s south.

The president flew home Wednesday from Moscow, where he had cut short an official visit to Russia to deal with the Marawi crisis.

Philippines’ Duterte mulls imposing martial law nationwide — “Martial law of Mr Marcos was very good,” Duterte said — (The most lawless nation in Asia goes one step beyond…)

May 24, 2017


© AFP | Philippine policemen check a car at a checkpoint in Iligan City, on the southern island of Mindanao, on May 24, 2017


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday he may impose martial law throughout the nation, after declaring military rule in the southern third the cof ountry to combat Islamist militants.

Duterte on Tuesday announced the imposition of martial law in the region of Mindanao, home to about 20 million people, after militants who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group rampaged through a city there.

Duterte said he was considering also imposing martial law through the central third of the Philippines known as the Visayas, because this region is very close to Mindanao.

He then also raised the prospect of the northern third of the Philippines, known as Luzon and home to the capital of Manila, falling under martial law.

“If I think that the ISIS has already taken foothold also in Luzon, and terrorism is not really far behind, I might declare martial law throughout the country to protect the people,” he said.

Duterte warned martial law would be similar to military rule imposed by dictator Ferdinand Marcos a generation ago.

Marcos’s two-decade rule ended in 1986 when millions of people took to the streets in a famous “People Power” revolution.

“Martial law of Mr Marcos was very good,” Duterte said.

Duterte said his own version of martial law meant security forces could conduct searches and arrest people without warrants.

He also said there would be curfews for some provinces in Mindanao.


 (with links to related reports)




Russia Views Iran, Syria as Strategic Partners in Middle East

May 24, 2017
Dr. Papadopoulos: Russia Views Iran, Syria as Strategic Partners in Middle East
Dr. Marcus Papadopoulos
Fars News Agency
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TEHRAN (FNA)- It is now more than six years that the Syrian government is engaged in a full-fledged war against terrorism. Syria has been faced with international terror squads programed to unite and topple the country’s government. Apart from Iran and Russia, the Syrian government has never been supported by other countries, and it has rather been confronted in terms of economics, politics and military support.

“Russia and Syria are not just allies – they are friends, too.  Relations between Moscow and Damascus are multi-faceted, involving bilateral, economic, military, security and cultural dimensions… Syria’s security has historically been strengthened by Moscow, and the Russians have on more than one occasion come to the aid of Syria”, said Dr. Marcus Papadopoulos in an exclusive interview with Fars News Agency.

“To counter extremism and terrorism is also very much a threat to Russian national security… Syria is Russia’s historic friend – friends are there for each other.  And, in order to retain its influence and power in the Middle East, Russia must ensure the survival of the Syrian state” he added.

Dr. Marcus Papadopoulos, Publisher and Editor of Politics First (a non-partisan publication for the UK Parliament) holds a PhD in Russian history and specializes in Russia and the rest of the former Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia.

FNA talked to Dr. Papadopoulos about Russia’s intention to support Syria in general, and ways in which the Syrian government has been supported by Russians in particular.

Below is the full text of the interview.

Q: How do you assess the historical ties between Russia and Syria in the contemporary history, specially since the Cold War era? What landmark events should be brought up to study the relations between these two countries in its entirety?

A: Russia and Syria are not just allies – they are friends, too.  Relations between Moscow and Damascus are multi-faceted, involving bilateral, economic, military, security and cultural dimensions.  And the Russian and Syrian peoples have benefited tremendously from those relations, which have been in existence for over half a century.  Syria’s security has historically been strengthened by Moscow, and the Russians have on more than one occasion come to the aid of Syria; for example, during the June War of 1967, the October War of 1973 and the conflict in Syria today.  In return, Syria is Russia’s eyes and ears in the Middle East.  Many Russians and Syrians regard each other as brothers – a sentiment that has gained even more popularity as a result of how, today, the Syrian and Russian militaries are on the frontline fighting extremism and terrorism, specifically Wahhabism and Salafism.

Q: Syria has been at war with foreign-backed terrorists for around six years now, while militants are losing ground in every front now. Where and at what stages, do you think, Russia’s assistance has brought Syria a step closer to victory? 

A: The turning-point in the Syrian conflict was on 30 September 2015 when Russia militarily intervened in the fighting, at the request of the Syrian Government, which is the only legitimate authority in Syria, in accordance with international law.  Up until that date, the Syrian military, which reflects the multi-cultural Syrian state in terms of its personnel (contrast this with how the terrorist opposition groups are sectarian, comprised of 99 per cent Sunnis), has been fighting on approximately 300 fronts and against approximately 80 different nationalities of terrorists – not to mention the military and financial support that these terrorists were and are continuing to receive from the US, UK, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The courage and tenacity demonstrated by Syrian servicemen and servicewomen has been extraordinary, and their achievements will gain a special place in history.  History will show that those men and women gave it their all in order to contain and defeat one of the most awful cancers in the history of mankind: Extremism.

The Syrian military had been battling alone, against the odds, for four years, prior to Russian intervention.  The Syrian soldier needed help from his Russian counterpart, and, like true brothers do, the Russian soldier came to his aid.

Because of Russian intervention in Syria’s fight with Takfirism, the Syrian military will prevail.  It is not a matter of if but when victory will come for the Syrian Armed Forces.

Q: Why does Russia see it on itself to stand up for Bashar Al-Assad’s government? What objectives could be perceived for Russia’s present role in Syria?

A: Firstly, Russia came to the aid of a legitimate government and one that is in trouble in its fight with extremism and terrorism.  Secondly, on humanitarian grounds, namely to protect the Syrian people from the barbarism that is Wahhabism and Salafism.  Thirdly, to counter extremism and terrorism is also very much a threat to Russian national security.  Fourthly, Syria is Russia’s historic friend – friends are there for each other.  And finally, in order to retain its influence and power in the Middle East, Russia must ensure the survival of the Syrian state; no different to how the US would militarily defend its position in Saudi Arabia or Israel, if it was required to do so.

Q: Considering the recent Washington-Moscow confrontational policies over a range of issues, specially the war in Syria, do you see a shift in Russia’s foreign policy towards the United States’ allies in the Middle-East, specifically Israel and Saudi Arabia?

A: No.  Israel and Saudi Arabia are staunch allies and friends to the US – and nothing can undo this well-known reality.  Furthermore, Saudi Arabia is the number one exporter of religious extremism (Wahhabism) and terrorism to the world, which continues to affect Russian security, especially in the North Caucasus.  And as for Israel, the Israelis historically pose a deadly threat to Russia’s friend and ally Syria, and Israel has been assisting armed groups affiliated with al-Qaeda in their fight with the Syrian army, something that Moscow is well aware of.

For the Kremlin, Syria and Iran are its strategic partners in the Middle East.  Damascus and Tehran are to Moscow what Tel Aviv and Riyadh are to Washington.

Q: Is the Syrian crisis pushing the ties between Russia and the US into a state similar to the cold war decades ago? With the new US administration, how likely is it to witness a 21st century version of the cold war?

A: The crisis in Ukraine is what propelled relations between Russia and the US to such a low level.  However, the fighting in Syria has made relations between the two superpowers even worse.  The state of relations between Moscow and Washington today are comparable to how they were before Detente in the 1970s and during the early 1980s.  And with the Trump administration determined to “Make America Great Again” by crushing or curtailing the power of countries which follow independent foreign policies (Russia, Syria, Iran and North Korea, to name but a few), it is extremely difficult to see how Russia-US relations can improve. President Putin cannot and will not (and rightly so) bow down to American diktats, while President Trump is determined to both fulfil his own personal megalomaniac ambitions and pursue America’s insatiable lust for ever more wealth and power in the world.

Philippines: Duterte declares martial law in Mindanao amid clashes with Islamic State inspired fighters

May 24, 2017

Updated 3:03 AM ET, Wed May 24, 2017

A Philippine policeman mans a checkpoint along a highway in Iligan City, in southern island of Mindanao on May 24, 2017.

Philippines: Terrorist Attack in Marawi — What We Know So Far

May 24, 2017

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Here are the things we know about the clash in Marawi City.

Editor’s note: This is a developing story. We will update this as new information comes in.

President Rodrigo Duterte has declared martial law for 60 days over Mindanao following the firefight between military forces and the ISIS-inspired Maute fighters on Tuesday, killing several militants, at least two soldiers and a police officer and wounded 12 others.
Duterte’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which was scheduled on Thursday, has been brought forward to Tuesday evening to allow his hasty return to the Philippines. Duterte has cut short his official visit and is expected to return to the country by Wednesday to deal with the conflict. Duterte told Putin that he is counting on Russia to supply weapons for the fight against terrorism in the Philippines as he cozies up with non-traditional ally Moscow and veer away from longtime partner the United States.


  • A constitutional expert and rights group expressed concern over the declaration of martial law
  • Reports of hostages taken by the militants
  • Gunshots have so far halted, according to the Marawi City mayor, but residents remain locked indoors

READ: Mindanao martial law to be like Marcos’, says Duterte

Here’s what we know so far:

  • The gunbattle began after government troops raided the hideout of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon in Marawi City, a largely Muslim city with a population of over 200,000. The US Department of Justice has listed the Abu Sayyaf leader among the most-wanted terrorists worldwide, with a reward of up to $5 million for his capture. Hapilon’s group called for reinforcement from its ally, the Maute. The Maute was blamed for the bomb attack in Duterte’s hometown of Davao City last September which killed 15.
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  • Terrorist Isnilon Hapilon
  • Hapilon, an Arabic-speaking preacher known for his expertise in commando assaults, has pledged allegiance to ISIS in 2014, according to security officials. He reportedly has been chosen to lead an ISIS branch in Southeast Asia. But Philippine and US security officials assert there is no formal IS presence in the Philippines, citing the “worldwide phenomenon” where existing terror groups affiliate themselves with ISIS.
  • Hapilon, who is still recovering from wounds sustained in a military airstrike in January, and more than a dozen of his men summoned reinforcements. Armed Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Año said nearly 50 gunmen entered the city. Meanwhile, Marawi City Mayor Majul Usman Gandamra said in an interview with ANC’s “Headstart” that he thinks the number may be from 100 to 200.
  • SMALL VICTORY.This photo taken on June 3 shows Philippine soldiers displaying the flag used by the Islamic State group after overrunning a militant camp at a remote village in Butig town, Lanao del Sur province after a 10-day battle. Photo by Richelle Umel/ AFP

    SMALL VICTORY.This photo taken on June 3, 2016 shows Philippine soldiers displaying the flag used by the Islamic State group after overrunning a militant camp at a remote village in Butig town, Lanao del Sur province after a 10-day battle. Photo by Richelle Umel/ AFP

  • Gandamra said the attack caught them by surprise. He said they knew something will happen and are on alert but did not expect the number of Maute militants who entered the city. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said there was no failure of intelligence in the Marawi situation but admitted there was “lack of appreciation” of information.
  • Some 20 gunmen took position in a hospital and raised a black ISIS flag. A photo shared on the Facebook page of the Peace and Conflict Journalism Network showed a Maute fighter mounting an ISIS flag on a police vehicle the terror group sequestered.

  • Lorenzana said dozens of gunmen occupied the city hall—a claim countered by the Marawi City mayor—hospital and jail and burned the St. Mary’s Church, the city jail, the Ninoy Aquino school and Dansalan College as well as some houses. Power was also cut while Maute snipers were all around. Troops and police engaged in a firefight with 10 other militants who went near the jail.
  • The mayor advised residents to stay indoors during the height of the tension.
  • Troops sealed off major entry and exit points to prevent Hapilon from escaping. Military reinforcements are also coming in from Zamboanga City and Manila. The Marawi City mayor said on Wednesday early morning that he is waiting for their arrival.
  • A Marawi teacher named Noddy Summer said residents remain locked up indoors until Wednesday morning. She added that her colleague was taken as a hostage by the militants.
  • The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines also released a statement saying Father Chito Suganob and others who were in the Cathedral of Our Lady Help of Christians were also taken as hostage. The CBCP said the militants have threatened to kill the hostages “if the government forces unleashed against them are not recalled.”
  • Gandamra said no more gunshots were heard in the area but they are still monitoring the situation. He said schools will remain closed until the government takes full control of the situation.
  • He said sightings of Maute fighters are still reported but assured the public that Marawi City is till under the control of the government.
  • Lorenzana also assured that the government remains in control of the situation in Marawi City.
  • Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the grounds for martial law, which covers the entire Mindanao island effective 10 p.m. Tuesday, is the “existence of rebellion.”
  • The declaration will help government forces carry out searches and arrests and detain rebel suspects more quickly, Lorenzana said.
  • The military has supported the martial law declaration but Philippine Constitution expert Christian Monsod said what happened in Marawi City does not meet the definition of rebellion as cited in the Revised Penal Code: “The crime of rebellion or insurrection is committed by rising publicly and taking arms against the government for the purpose of removing from the allegiance to said Government or its laws, the territory of the Republic of the Philippines or any part thereof, of any body of land, naval or other armed forces, or depriving the Chief Executive or the Legislature, wholly or partially, of any of their powers or prerogatives.” He said he thinks what happened was lawless violence as it does not involve purpose of removing allegiance to said government or laws any part of the territory of the Philippines.
  • Karapatan also warned that the declaration might aggravate insecurity in the area and lead to human rights violations. — Mikas Matsuzawa with reports from AP


North Korea, if left unchecked, on ‘inevitable’ path to nuclear ICBM: U.S.

May 24, 2017


By Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali | WASHINGTON

North Korea, if left unchecked, is on an “inevitable” path to obtaining a nuclear-armed missile capable of striking the United States, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart told a Senate hearing on Tuesday.

The remarks are the latest indication of mounting U.S. concern about Pyongyang’s advancing missile and nuclear weapons programs, which the North says are needed for self-defense.

U.S. lawmakers pressed Stewart and the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to estimate how far away North Korea was from obtaining an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that could reach the United States.

They repeatedly declined to offer an estimate, saying that doing so would reveal U.S. knowledge about North Korea’s capabilities, but Stewart warned the panel the risk was growing.

“If left on its current trajectory the regime will ultimately succeed in fielding a nuclear-armed missile capable of threatening the United States homeland,” Stewart said.

“While nearly impossible to predict when this capability will be operational, the North Korean regime is committed and is on a pathway where this capability is inevitable.”

The U.N. Security Council is due to meet on Tuesday behind closed doors to discuss Sunday’s test of a solid-fuel Pukguksong-2 missile, which defies Security Council resolutions and sanctions. The meeting was called at the request of the United States, Japan and South Korea.


John Schilling, a missile expert contributing to Washington’s 38 North think tank, estimated it would take until at least 2020 for North Korea to be able to develop an ICBM capable of reaching the U.S. mainland and until 2025 for one powered by solid fuel.

But Coats acknowledged gaps in U.S. intelligence about North Korea and the thinking of its leader Kim Jong Un.

He cited technological factors complicating U.S. intelligence gathering, including gaps in U.S. intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), which rely on assets like spy satellites and drone aircraft.

“We do not have constant, consistent ISR capabilities and so there are gaps, and the North Koreans know about these,” Coats said.

Washington has been trying to persuade China to agree to new sanctions on North Korea, which has conducted dozens of missile firings and tested two nuclear bombs since the start of last year.

New data on Tuesday showed China raised its imports of iron ore from North Korea in April to the highest since August 2014 but bought no coal for a second month after Beijing halted coal shipments from its increasingly isolated neighbor.

U.S. President Donald Trump has warned that a “major, major conflict” with North Korea is possible over its weapons programs, although U.S. officials say tougher sanctions, not military force, are the preferred option.

Trump’s defense secretary, Jim Mattis, said on Friday any military solution to the North Korea crisis would be “tragic on an unbelievable scale.”

(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by James Dalgleish)


 (China and Russia don’t generally agree on this)

 (They say it didn’t happen but eye wintesses say it DID HAPPEN)

 (China did not even criticize North Korea…)

Philippine Lawmakers Want To Drill For Oil In The South China Sea — A Move Likely To Anger China, Upset President Duterte — Some say “skirt the issue of sovereignty”

May 23, 2017

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Sen. Richard Gordon, in separate interviews, said the country has the sovereign right to exploit resources within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Senate PRIB/Joseph Vidal/ File

MANILA, Philippines – With or without a threat of war from China, the Duterte administration should pursue its plan to drill for oil and exploit other resources in areas in the West Philippine Sea being claimed by the Chinese, senators said yesterday.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Sen. Richard Gordon, in separate interviews, said the country has the sovereign right to exploit resources within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“We must continue to assert our rights over our territory… including drilling (for oil), because that’s within our territory,” Drilon said. “Exploitation of natural resources is the right of the state within its territory.”

Sen. Sonny Angara said the country should start exploring for oil in the South China Sea but that it should “proceed carefully.”

He said the natural gas reserves from the Malampaya complex near Palawan would soon be depleted.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the government should consider joint exploration as the country does not have the financial resources to undertake such investment-heavy endeavors alone.

“The challenge is how to skirt the issue of sovereignty. Can we (claimant nations) set aside the issue temporarily and focus on the economic benefits?” Recto said.

He said the government must try to secure a better deal than the one for the Malampaya program – or one that ensures bigger share of profit for the country.

Last week, President Duterte disclosed that Chinese President Xi Jinping had threatened war if the Philippines would insist on drilling for oil in the West Philippine Sea.

Beijing, however, appeared to have sidestepped the war threat claimed by Duterte.

“I said it is ours and I will drill the oil. And I tell them do not do it because it is ours. But I have the arbitral ruling. But they said that if you force the issue, we will go to war,” Duterte said, quoting Xi.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, for his part, said the government should now focus on building naval and research facilities near Benham Rise – renamed Philippine Rise – to hasten exploration activities in the area.

Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate committees on energy and on economic affairs, made the call after President Duterte signed Executive Order No. 25, renaming Benham Rise to Philippine Rise.

“There is an urgent need for us to hasten the conduct of extensive research so we can map out strategies on how to develop the area and use its rich natural resources to enrich the lives of the Filipino people,” he said.

“Changing its name has put emphasis on our sovereign jurisdiction over this vast mass of underwater plateau. Now that we have done that, government must now shift its attention to how to utilize its natural resources before our neighbors discover its hidden treasures,” he added.

The Senate economic affairs committee is finalizing its recommendations for the creation of the Benham Rise Development Authority (BRDA), as proposed by Angara, to spearhead research and development efforts for the resource-rich area.

The Philippine Rise is a 24-million-hectare underwater plateau located about 250 kilometers east of Northern Luzon. It is within the Philippine EEZ and continental shelf, based on recommendations of the UN Commission on Limits of the Continental Shelf issued on April 2012.


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

 (Contains links to several earlier related stories)

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

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

Philippine President Declares Martial Law in Mindanao: Spokesman

May 23, 2017

(Reuters) – Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday declared martial law in southern Mindanao province after fighting raged in southern Marawi City between the army and militants linked to Islamic state.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella made the announcement in Moscow, where the president is on a visit.

A meeting with Dmitry Medvedev will be canceled on Wednesday but Duterte will remain in Russia, Foreign Minister Alan Peter Cayetano said in a televised news conference.

(Reporting by Martin Petty; Editing by Hugh Lawson)