Friday, June 23, 2017

Military cites 'strong indication' Omar Maute is dead

From ABS-CBN (Jun 23): Military cites 'strong indication' Omar Maute is dead

The military on Friday said there was a "strong indication" that Omar Maute, one of the two brothers who founded the terrorist group behind attacks in Marawi City, is already dead.

The report of Maute's possible death first reached the military two weeks ago, Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera, spokesperson of Joint Task Force Marawi, said in a press conference in Marawi City.

Maute was possibly killed during an encounter in an area considered as the Maute group's lair in the Islamic City, but government troops have yet to extract his body from the war zone, Herrera said.

Once confirmed, his death may be considered a blow to the Islamic State-linked terror group amid continuing government offensives a month into the siege.

The Maute brothers were among terror leaders known to have plotted attacks in Marawi last month, just before firefights erupted on May 23.

With Maute likely gone, his brother Abdullah may be the one now leading the group's operations, the military said.

Earlier this month, the brothers' parents- father Cayamora and mother Farhana- were arrested in separate police operations.

Meanwhile, Isnilon Hapilon, said to be the anointed ISIS leader in Southeast Asia, is also still alive and helping Abdullah lead the rebels, the military said.

Malacañang earlier announced a P5 million bounty for the "neutralization" of each of the Maute brothers, and another P10 million for Hapilon.

Speaking to reporters in Manila on Thursday, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Eduardo Año also shared the information.

"Hapilon is still inside (Marawi), kaya nga siguro defying 'yung mga members nito, because Hapilon is still alive. But si Omar Maute, more or less mukhang patay na talaga itong si Omar Maute. Abdullah is still alive, still there, still inside Marawi," he said.

READ: Omar Maute likely dead, AFP chief says

News of Omar's possible death came a month since clashes began, prompting President Rodrigo Duterte to place the entire Mindanao under martial law.

As of 6 p.m. Thursday, government placed the death toll at 375, among them 280 terror suspects, 69 government troops and 26 civilians.

Philippine Troops Gain Against Muslim Rebels but Face Aftershocks

From Voice of America (Jun 23): Philippine Troops Gain Against Muslim Rebels but Face Aftershocks

Damaged buildings and houses are seen as government forces continue their assault against insurgents from the Maute group, who have taken over large parts of Marawi city, Philippines, June 22, 2017.

Suspected NPA rebels burn ₱40-million equipment in Palawan

From CNN Philippines (Jun 23): Suspected NPA rebels burn ₱40-million equipment in Palawan

Suspected members of the New People's Army (NPA) set on fire ₱40 million worth of heavy equipment in San Vicente town in Palawan.

Police said a number of men, who identified themselves as NPA rebels, torched construction equipment, including dump trucks and backhoes on Monday at Sitio Ombo, Purok Pag-asa in Barangay New Canipo.

A similar incident happened in the same barangay, three kilometers away from Sitio Ombo, in Purok Pagkakaisa on Tuesday.

The police estimated the damage at ₱40 million.

The NPA has not officially taken responsibility for the incident. Authorities are still investigating.

Newington Builders, Inc. and Tagala Construction owned the equipment. Company officials told the police they received letters, supposedly from rebels, asking them to give revolutionary taxes.
The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines which has waged a 48-year-old insurgency, the longest-running armed rebellion in Asia.

Six BIFF men killed in firefight

From The Standard (Jun 23): Six BIFF men killed in firefight

SIX members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters were killed in a clash with government troops in Barangay Malagakit, Pigcawayan, North Cotabato on Wednesday, a military official said Thursday.

Capt. Napoleon Alcarioto, spokesman for the 602nd Brigade, said civilians told the military that the BIFF rebels retrieved the dead bodies and fled on board a motorized outrigger on the Ligusan Marsh.

Civilians also saw eight BIFF members who were wounded, Alcarioto said.

On the other hand, two members of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit were wounded during the exchange of gunfire.

“The situation is back to normal as most of the civilians particularly those residing along the highway are back at their homes while others are still in the evacuation centers,” Alcarioto said.

Classes at the Malagakit Elementary School, which the BIFF occupied for hours during the skirmishes, are still suspended.

Some 200 to 300 BIFF rebels swooped down on two military detachments in the villages of Malagakit, and Simsiman, and started firing at troops manning the posts on Wednesday.

The BIFF then forcibly entered and destroyed several houses in three villages, forcing civilians to flee to safer ground as fighting lasted for hours.

The BIFF withdrew under the cover of darkness, leaving a militiaman---Abraham Cutay and a civilian dead.

A military statement said 63 civilians were rescued by the Joint Task Force Central, which clashed with the BIFF rebels in North Cotabato.

RESCUED. An infant, one of the residents who were trapped when the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters took six teachers and six students hostage, is rescued by officials of Barangay Simsiman, Pigkawayan, North Cotabato on Wednesday, June 21, 2017. The hostages were students of Malagakit Elementary School, but the military later clarified that none of the hostages were students. Police said the firefight erupted after 300 ‘fully armed’ BIFF fighters attacked a barangay outpost in Barangay Malagakit and a Cafgu detachment in Barangay Simsiman, North Cotabato. Mark Navales

Soldiers from the 602nd Brigade advanced towards the Malagakit Elementary School to rescue the hostages, who were used as human shields, and engaged the fleeing rebels at about 6 p.m. Wednesday.

The rebels left 31 of their captives behind as they fled.

Thirty-two residents trapped in the crossfire left their homes and joined the rescued hostages.

Members of the 34th Infantry Battalion provided mortar fire support to the Simsiman Detachment in Barangay Simsiman, Pigcawayan, North Cotabato, and blockaded Barangay Malagakit, while troops from the 7th Infantry Battalion and the 34IB attacked the rebels.

Two BIFF members were held by the troops of the 22nd Mechanized Company, 2nd Mechanized Battalion, Mechanized Division, at a checkpoint in Butilin, Datu Salibo, Maguindanao at 9:20 a.m. Wednesday.

Troops found two sachets of shabu on the BIFF members.

Also on Thursday, a spokesman for the Philippine National Police said all field commanders have been ordered to review their camp defense plans to thwart any attacks by the New People’s Army rebels and terrorists.

The reminder came after NPA rebels ransacked a police station in Maasin, Iloilo province on Sunday morning, taking away several firearms from the police station including eight M16 rifles, four Glock 9mm pistols, five handheld radios, a base radio, and two laptops. The rebels also took P25,000 from the police station and a patrol car.

Malacañang on Thursday said the attack by the BIFF in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato was not a spillover from the Marawi siege.

“It’s not a spillover,” said Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella. “It was an opportunistic action coming from the BIFF group. So it’s not connected in that sense.”

President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier warned that the Islamic State-inspired Maute group may engage in more bombing runs in the coming days in other parts of Mindanao.

In the aftermath of the Pigcawayan attack, Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones on Thursday said schools and learning spaces are zones of peace, and said the safety of teachers and students is the foremost priority in the event of conflict.

Untrue: NDFP belies Duterte’s claim that 75% of NPAs are Lumad

From the often pro-CPP online publication the Davao Today (Jun 23): Untrue: NDFP belies Duterte’s claim that 75% of NPAs are Lumad

Six platoons of the 1st Pulang Bagani Company performs a tactical inspection during the 48th anniversary celebration of the Communist Party of the Philippines in Barangay Lumiad, Paquibato district in Davao City on Monday morning, Dec. 26, 2016. (Zea Io Ming C. Capistrano/

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines belied the claim of President Rodrigo Duterte that 75 percent of the members of the New People’s Army are Lumad.

In a statement emailed to the media on Thursday, Maria Malaya, spokesperson of NDFP North Eastern Mindanao said Duterte’s statement was “a big lie, deceitful and provokes further attacks against the Lumad people.”
During his visit to the 401st Infantry Brigade in Butuan City on Saturday, June 17, Duterte told reporters that 75 percent of the NPAs are Lumad.
“75 percent of the rebels now, Lumads. Sila ang pinupusta ng NPA. Hindi ‘yung mga Bisaya, hindi ‘yung mga Ilonggo, hindi ‘yung mga Ilocano. Sila ang ginagawang sundalo (75 percent of the rebels now are Lumad. They are used as pawns by the NPA. Not the Bisaya, not the Ilonggo, not the Ilocano. They are the ones used as soldiers),” Duterte said.

But Malaya said the President’s statement even provokes attacks against the Lumad.

She said the Lumad people are a minority in terms of the population, making up only “close to 7 percent.”
“In addition, the NPA operates in a large section of the mountains, plains, highways, coastal areas and town centers of the region’s five provinces and are the sources of Red fighter recruits. Thus, the Lumad people cannot comprise the larger number of members of the NPA-NEMR,” she said.

The NPA in NEMR operates in the Caraga region, which covers Agusan del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Dinagat Island, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur.

Malaya said Duterte’s statement “provokes further attacks against the Lumad people as it is a component of the psychological operation of the US-Duterte regime to confuse, divide and pit the Lumad people against each other.”

She said the resources within the ancestral lands of the Lumad people are targeted by the local ruling classes and capitalists. She added that the Lumad’s land are constantly targeted by extensive land grabbing and large scale mining and plantations.

Malaya also said Duterte has already “offered the lands of Caraga and the entire island of Mindanao, particularly the ancestral lands of the Lumad and Moro people, for the projects and plans of foreign investors.” She said these projects and plans are connected with the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

She said in order to defeat the NPA, the government is using the military campaign to mobilize the people against the revolutionary movement.

“It is similar to the ‘fish and water’ method. The people are apparently the water and the NPA, the fish. Poison the water to kill the fish. The enemy have been using violence and deceit to “drain the water.” They are using this action now against the Lumad people,” Malaya said.

Duterte also said the NPA continue to exploit the Lumad and offered them instead to become soldiers of the government.

“Kayong mga Lumad nasa NPA, kung mag-surrender kayo, I will take you in as sundalo sa Armed Forces of the Philippines. Parehong sweldo. Sundalo talaga, may sweldo, may trabaho. Diyan kayo sa NPA, magtiis kayo (Those of you Lumads who are with the NPAs, if you surrender, I will take you in as soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. You will receive the same salary just like the soldiers. If you remain with the NPAs, then suffer the consequences),” he said.

Duterte also said that he will talk with the NPAs and appealed to them to lessen its attacks.

“Kita mag istorya man ta. Ug gusto mo, tutal ug pagka human ani, mag amigo gyud kaha ta. Hinay hinay nalang mog pag engkwentro (We will talk, if you want, after this, we will be friends. Just lessen the encounters),” Duterte said in his speech during the 50th anniversary of Agusan del Norte in Cabadbaran State University last June 17.

The Communist Party of the Philippines said they anticipate the resumption of the fifth round of talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in two to three months.

The substantive agenda of the talks include the social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and the end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

The meat of the peace negotiations is believed to be that of the resolution of the social and economic problems.

ESSCom lists 18 foreigners wanted for transborder crimes in ESSZone

From the Malay Mail (Jun 23): ESSCom lists 18 foreigners wanted for transborder crimes in ESSZone

 There is fear the foreign individuals on the list will escape to other countries following the military action taken by the Philippine government to combat the Maute millitants in Marawi City. — Reuters pic

There is fear the foreign individuals on the list will escape to other countries following the military action taken by the Philippine government to combat the Maute millitants in Marawi City. — Reuters pic

The Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCom) has issued a new list of 18 individuals wanted for alleged involvement in transborder crimes in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZone) last year.

Its commander, DCP Datuk Wan Abdul Bari Wan Abdul Khalid, said all the individuals were foreigners, including the leader of Abu Sayyaf group in Basilan, who is also the so-called Islamic State Element chief in southern Philippines, Isnilon Hapilon, and the leader of the Maute Millitant Group in Marawai, Abdullah Maute.

“We fear that they will escape to other countries, including Malaysia via Sabah, following the military action taken by the Philippine government to combat the Maute millitants in Marawi City.

“We also suspect that they will enter the country by posing as illegal immigrants or fishermen,” he said in a statement here yesterday.

He said public with information about the individuals are requested to contact the ESSCom operation room at 089-863181 or via WhatsApp to 013-880 3585 or 019-230 5909 or to lodge a report at any police station for further action.

The 16 other wanted individuals are Hatib Hajan@Sawadjan, Alden Badge@Sayning, Apo Mike@Majan Sahidjuan, Marajan Asiri, Indang Susukan, Raden Abuh, Halipah Ibrahim, Salvador Muktadil@Badong, Ben Yadah@Ben Tattoh, Arrah Saminddih, Boy Intel, Berham Luthien@Vietnam, Sabri Madrasul@Salip Jul, Las Pangit, Sangbas and Salip Mura.

Military sees 'tactical alliance' between BIFF, Maute group

From GMA News (Jun 23): Military sees 'tactical alliance' between BIFF, Maute group

Officials on Friday said Wednesday's attack on Pigcawayan, Cotabato, by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) was not connected with the conflict in Marawi City, despite the group's likely "tactical alliance" with the Maute group.

"Ah yes, as far as tactical alliance is concerned, that is very possible and we have seen that in some operations wherein BIFF fighters are sending augmentation to not just Maute but also other local terrorist groups in the country," said East Mindanao Command deputy commander Brig. Gen. Gilbert Gapay during Mindanao Hour in Davao City.

Both Gapay and presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella agreed that the attack on Pigcawayan was not connected with the conflict in Marawi City.

 "The BIFF attack in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato yesterday has been assessed to have no connection to the ongoing Marawi rebellion," said Abella.

"It is seen as the BIFF's attempt to recover from more than two weeks of setbacks from ongoing operations of the AFP's 6th Infantry Division."

"It's not as serious as the one we’re fighting in Marawi because BIFF is contained in their stronghold in SPMS box and our troops there are doing very well in containing the BIFF," Gapay, for his part, said. Gapay, meanwhile, said operations against the BIFF continue despite the ongoing armed conflict in Marawi City.

"Being a local terrorist group is also a target of local operations. A dedicated unit is right now tasked to address this threat and just like our efforts against the Maute group, we will sustain our operations against the BIFF until they are decimated,” he said.