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‘Rebellion afoot in Mindanao,’ warns Calida


By Julius N. Leonen

Solicitor General Jose Calida warned that not only are there four terrorist groups in Mindanao that are linked to the Islamic State (IS), but that there are also 20  more terror cells discovered to have been conducting coordinated attacks in the southern part of the country.
The Solicitor General yesterday stated this in his memorandum filed before the Supreme Court (SC) seeking to uphold President Duterte’s declaration of martial law and to dismiss the consolidated petitions calling for the nullification of the declaration.
“Rebellion is afoot in Mindanao. In the western, central and eastern areas of the Mindanao region, there have been armed attacks against the civilian population, and pillage of public and private establishments,” Calida said in his  85-page memorandum filed with the SC.
“While it is easy to brush aside the armed attacks in Marawi City and elsewhere in Mindanao as common crimes bereft of any political motive or color, these attacks are atypical of previous terrorist activities in Mindanao,” the Solicitor General said.
Calida said the perpetrators of these attacks were identified as: Abu Sayyaf, the Ansarul Khilafah Philippines, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and the Maute group.
However,  the Solicitor General added that aside from these IS-linked local rebel groups, “there are also ISIS cell groups that operate all over Mindanao. These cell groups conduct coordinated attacks with the aforesaid rebel groups.”
These groups were identified in the memorandum as: Ansar Dawiah Fi Filibbin, Rajah Solaiman Islamic Movement, Al Harakatul Islamiyah Battalion, Jama’at Ansar Khilafa, Ansharul Khilafah Philippines Battalion, Bangsamoro Justice Movement, Khilafah Islamiya Mindanao, Abu Sayyaf Group (Sulu faction), Syuful Khilafa Fi Luzon, Ma’rakah Al-Ansar Battalion, Dawla Islamiyyah Cotabato, Dawlat Al Islamiyah Waliyatul Masrik, Ansar Al-Shariyah Battalion, Jamaah al-Tawhid wal Jihad Philippines, Abu Dujanah Battalion, Abu Khubayn Battalion, Jundallah Battalion, Abu Sadr Battalion, Jamaah Al Muhajirin wal Anshor, Balik-Islam Group.
Calida said these IS-linked local rebel groups and cell groups “have conducted violent activities, particularly in the areas of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga and Davao.”
“(They have done this) not merely to sow terror among the populace, but to dismember the country. They have the capability of conducting bomb attacks in any areas of Mindanao,” Calida said.
“The survival of the State hangs in the balance,” Calida said in the memorandum submitted to the Supreme Court Monday.
Calida said the rebellion being waged by these groups is endangering public safety. He added that the violence lent activities of these groups increase in frequency and geography.
2 BIFF killed in clash
Also Sunday, two members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), one of the IS affiliated terror group listed among those involved in the Marawi City siege by Islamic State-inspired terrorists, were killed during a clash with government forces in Maguindanao province on Sunday night.
Reports identified the slain BIFF personalities as Raul Angkay, 46, and his cousin Edz Angkay Dalengdeng, 45.
Tagged as medical officer of the BIFF, Angkay is listed in the Arrest Order No. 2 issued by martial law administrator Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in connection to the ongoing siege in Marawi City.
The two were killed when combined elements of the Army’s 603rd Brigade and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (CIDG-ARMM) conducted law enforcement operation in Barangay Labu Labu Shariff Aguak town at around 9:35 p.m. Sunday.
Recovered from the two were a caliber .45 pistol, a fragmentation grenade and six cellular phones.
Senior Supt. Agustin Tello, director of Maguindanao Provincial Police Office, said that the pieces of evidence were turned over to the CIDG for proper disposition.
More than 300 personalities, mostly members of the Maute group, the Abu Sayyaf, the BIFF and even politicians, were ordered arrested by Lorenzana following the declaration of martial law in the aftermath of the Marawi City siege.
Several high-profile individuals, including the patriarch of the Maute clan, Cayamora Maute, and the matriarch Omita RomatoMaute, alias Farhana, have already been arrested following the issuance of the arrest order.
Also arrested was former Marawi City Mayor Fajad Salic, who is being linked with the Maute group.
Meanwhile, President Duterte may have been absent from the public eye last week but he was not turning a blind eye on the government’s operations in Marawi City.
This was the assurance given by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla yesterday during the Mindanao Hour at the Palace, adding that Mr. Duterte was even very active in giving directives to state security forces.
“He kept giving guidance to AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año and to (Department of Defense) Secretarty Delfin Lorenzana. We have telephones and secured facilities where he is able to communicate with our senior leaders,” Padilla said.
“We give him daily updates on the ground in Marawi,” he added.
In the same briefing, Padilla also announced that the troops were also able to recover more than 20 high-powered firearms last Saturday in Marawi City.
“So you may not be aware of the nature of the confiscated firearms. These are among the firearms that have been confiscated and they are not ordinary firearms at all but high-powered firearms that can fire from afar, hit targets and destroy them,” Padilla said.
“This is indicative of the length of planning that went to this operation of these rebels, when they were able to get this number of firearms and bring it to the area of operations over a period of time,” he added.
Other war materials such as improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other explosives have also been confiscated.
According to Abella, the AFP is prepared to embark on other key tasks such as rehabilitation and reconstruction of Marawi City once it is cleared of the terrorists.
“It has already prepared the Combat Engineering Brigades [from] the Army and the Navy for immediate deployment as soon as the clearing operations are [completed],” he said of AFP’s preparations.
In the meantime, however, he said the focus remains on combat, intelligence, and civil military operations.
The government troops have so far rescued 1,637 civilians, recovered 250 firearms and killed 257 terrorists, Abella reported adding that the Maute’s resistance “continues to wane”.
At least 62 soldiers have been killed while thousands of people have been displaced since the siege started last month.
Opposition memorandum
In  their 66-page memorandum filed by Marawi residents through lawyer Marlon Manuel, “in deciding this case, the Honorable Court is called upon to rule on the two fundamental doctrines of republic government—the doctrine of separation of powers and the doctrine of checks and balances.”
“In this difficult task of resolving the present dispute and balancing the conflicting interests, we implore the Court to safeguard the people’s fundamental liberties, and ensure that the government’s vast powers are utilized only for the benefit of the people for which it serves,” the memorandum further read.
For the other group of petitioners led by National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) and its chairman Neri Colmenares, they said that the 1987 Constitution requires the Congress to hold a joint session to either revoke or approve Mr. Duterte’s proclamation.
“This is a check-and-balance provision installed to regulate the unilateral power of the President to impose martial law or suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus,” the petitioners said.
“The Constitution provided safeguards against the whimsical or arbitrary imposition of martial law which has caused so much misery and death in 1972,” their 53-page petition read.
Moreover, opposition lawmakers led by Albay Representative Edcel Lagman said that “the exercise of powers of both the President and the Armed Forces of the Philippines when martial law is declared or the writ is suspended is reined in and delimited by the multiple safeguards enshrined in the 1987 Constitution to prevent the repetition of the misuse and abuse of such declaration or suspension together with attendant excesses, repression and atrocities reminiscent of the 14 ignominious years of martial law under the late President Ferdinand Marcos.”
Lagman also hammered in on the presumed “extra-legal powers” that the President may acquire during the declaration of martial law, which the justices asked the petitioners during the oral arguments.
They said that martial law “evokes and creates extra-legal powers” through “projecting the primacy of the role of the President as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces; intensifying, wittingly or unwittingly, the emergence of military rule; instilling fear among the citizens who are apprehensive of the atrocities and repressions committed during the regime of [Mr.] Marcos’ martial law; and fomenting opportunities for violation of human rights and civil liberties under the pretext of protecting national security,” their 37-page memorandum read. With Mario J. Mallari and Ted Tuvera

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