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Mario J. Mallari

AFP: Victory irreversible

Tuesday, 27 June 2017 00:00 Published in Headlines


Time is running out against the remaining Islamic State (IS)-inspired terrorists holding out in Marawi City with victory for the government forces now irreversible as the military is now planning for a final push against the bandits’ remaining pockets of resistance, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officials said yesterday. 

Some of the terrorists do not want to fight any more, apparently due to a leadership vacuum and the use of human shields, Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) head Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. said.
The situation has become very desperate for the IS sympathizers that those who are quitting to fight are being executed by hard core terrorists, according to reports reaching the military.
With the focusing of the military’s combat power, more and more defense positions of the Islamist group are being neutralized as fighting in Marawi City reaches its sixth week, AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo added.

“We also declared that the AFP is firm in its declaration that it is winning in this battle, as a matter of fact the victory is irreversible, it is just a matter of time before we will be able to complete our mission,” Arevalo added.
“Right now the terrorist group is feeling the might of the Armed Forces and (the AFP) is closing in on their (remaining) positions,” he further said.
With the shrinking of the Maute group’s defensive perimeter, Arevalo said that they have been receiving reports that conflict among leaders of the lawless elements has erupted due to issues of finances and waning logistical support.
“(With these development) there were some members of the Maute or IS group who (have made plans to surrender and desert) but according to reports, they were executed,” he added.
The military official added that with the reduction of Maute group combatants some civilian hostages are being forced to fight or carry ammunition and supplies for the terrorists with execution as an alternative for those who refuse.
Arevalo placed the number of civilians still at the clutches of the bandits to 150 to 200 with the remaining Maute group members at 100 to 120 pocketed at four barangays in Marawi City.
27 hostages executed — military
Latest military reports have it there are 27 civilians executed by the terrorists and 70 troopers and police officers killed in the ongoing operations along with 268 Maute Group combatants neutralized since last May 23.
With this development, the AFP official said they also received reports that Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, the IS “emir” in Southeast Asia, has already abandoned his companions creating a massive morale problem for the latter.
“We were told by those rescued that Isnilon Hapilon has abandoned his companions from the location, this is subject to validation process but we have received that information that (he) has already deserted his companions,” he added.
“But if he has indeed left, the AFP will continue to track him and run after him,” Arevalo disclosed.
“There are people who do not really want to fight any more…and we have confirmation that there were those who were killed…we heard that they have already executed some of the Maute members who want to escape,” said Galvez.
He cited that some, if not most, of those who were enticed to join the Maute group were lured by the promise of money.
“I believe that they are not expecting the conflict will be longer than this,” said Galvez.
According to Galvez, there are around 100 to 150 terrorists still putting up pockets of resistance in four barangays of Marawi City.
On the other hand, not less than 100 hostages are still being held by the terrorists –using them as human shields and to carry ammunition and bombs.
Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera, spokesman of Joint Task Force Marawi, echoed Galvez’s pronouncements saying there are now “grumblings” within the terrorist ranks.
Leadership problem
hits terror group
Herrera said based on the statements of captured terrorists there is now a leadership problem within the group which is now lacking in supplies.
“We have validated reports that there is leadership problem inside, they also lack in ammunition. They have very limited maneuver space…their world is really getting smaller, with decreasing defensive position,” said Herrera.
“These are manifestations that they are losing their ground especially at the center of gravity,” said Herrera.
As of yesterday, however, Herrera said that the terrorists continue to put up pockets of resistance.
“They continued to fire back,” said Herrera, adding “in terms of morale, they are already weak.”
Herrera said that a total of 347 firearms, including machineguns, sniper rifles, rocket propelled grenades and anti-tank weapons and thousands of ammunition were also seized.
Herrera also said that due to lack of manpower, the terrorists are now using the civilian hostages to carry their casualties, ammunition and even bombs which are being planted on houses.
The terrorists, Herrera said, also resort to arson to impede the entry of adnvancing government troops.
More foreign jihadists killed
Herrera that two Middle-Eastern looking cadavers were among those recovered during the continuing clearing operations in Marawi City.
He said investigations are now ongoing to establish the identities of the two foreign-looking men.
“We are now in the process of conducting investigation to identify or provide identification,” said Herrera.
“Definitely, we are winning the battle…inch by inch we are moving in the center of gravity,” he added.
Herrera also said the reported of killing of Malaysian Mahmoud, tagged as among the financiers of the Marawi City siege, and Omarkhayam Maute are still subjects to validation.
The military earlier said that Hapilon’s group is joined by foreign jihadists in the Marawi siege, including Indonesians, Malaysians, Singaporean, Yemeni, among others.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana also lashed out at some leftist groups, which he did not identify, accusing soldiers of sowing fear among civilians in Marawi City.
“I question the motives and credibility of certain leftist groups and individuals in coming up with a dubious report that Marawi women residents allegedly fear that they will be raped by soldiers in the ongoing military operations in Marawi City,” he added.
Lorenzana expressed support to the soldiers –citing the training they have undergone in gender sensitivity under the Gender and Development Program of the AFP.
The defense chief dared the groups to back up their accusation with solid evidence.
“I challenge the organizations where the information originated to present their evidence and lodge a complaint before the proper authorities if they can, and not just throw away accusations like they are reading lines from their same old propaganda for almost five decades now which the Filipino people have grown tired of hearing,” he said.
More civilians extricated
The eight-hour truce in conflict-torn Marawi City last Sunday was deemed successful by Malacañang.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella cited in a statement yesterday the achievements won by the government as it was able to save more trapped civilians and survey parts of the war zone during the humanitarian pause during the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr.
“The Humanitarian Pause was generally peaceful and as a result 6 civilians and one body of a civilian victim killed by the Maute group were recovered from inside Marawi. First rescued was a 79-year-old senior citizen. Next were 5 other civilians,” Abella said.
“Among the significant developments were the monitored increasing willful/intentional arson activities of the rebels in various areas of the city and the successful clearing of 85 buildings,” he added.
The Palace official also boasted of the increasing recovery and control of strategic vantage points, which include tall buildings and key structures in the built up area, by advancing troops continue to mount.
“Troops continue to get deeper into once enemy held positions as evidenced by the recovery of bodies of terrorists and their firearms, computers and peripherals as well as communications equipment and accessories,” he added.
Abella said that the troops’ movements on the ground are limited by the enemy forces’ continuous use of snipers, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) from remaining vantage positions.
Israel turns over P1M relief help
The Israel Embassy turned over P1 million worth of basic equipment, medicines, and supplies to the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), to support the immediate needs of those affected by the Marawi conflict.
The ceremony was led by Israel Ambassador to the Philippines Effie Bien Matityau, his wife Lizia Lu and Senator and PRC Chairman Richard Gordon, who extended gratitude to the Israel government for assistance.
“We are all touched by the events in Marawi and the effect they brought to the people of Marawi. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed us to lend a hand of support to the affected people in Marawi and the surrounding areas,” said Ambassador Matityau.
The basic equipment, medicines, and supplies will benefit thousands of families in the evacuation centers. The equipment includes emergency cart, suction machine, portable nebulizer machine, portable ECG machine, portable doppler, pulse oximeter, oxygen tank, basic medicine package, emergency medicines, and medical supplies.
PRC has set up a basic health care unit in (BHCU) in Balo-i Lanao del Norte on June 8. Since basic health services are a major priority in the communities and evacuation centers affected by the conflict, the PRC has provided basic, preventive, and health care emergency treatment and medical supplies.
“We would like to wish the people of Marawi a solemn end to the holidays of Ramadan and Eid’l Fitr celebration. We all hope for a speedy return of the population to their homes and normal life in time for the celebration, and that peace and national harmony will be restored,” said Ambassador Matityau.
French Ambassador to the Philippines Thierry Mathou said the French nation is “very concerned” with the situation.
“All the partners of the Philippine are concerned,” he said, saying they are now “quite” relieved that it seems the government has taken the situation under control.
“But of course, all issues of terrorism is a concern for all of us.”
Leni calls for united front
While the administration’s way of handling the issue of terrorism in Mindanao is “not perfect”, Vice President Leni Robredo yesterday called for a united front saying it is not time to criticize the government’s efforts.
The official yesterday visited the internally displaced persons (IDP) at the Al Markazie Islamic Institute in Balo-i Lanao del Sur amid ongoing clash between the government forces and the Maute group, an Islamic State-inspired local extremists in Marawi City.
When asked if she approves of the administration’s style of dealing with the problem of terrorism, Vice President Robredo said “it is not perfect, but we need to help each others.”
The entire Mindanao is still under Martial Law after President Rodrigo Duterte’s proclamation on May 23.
In the interview, Robredo said there should be unity, since “we all have the responsibility to help each others, rather than continuously criticize.” Ted Tuvera, Joyce Ann L. Rocamora, Pat C. Santos

Reds raid another police station in Zambales

Tuesday, 27 June 2017 00:00 Published in Nation

Communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels yesterday attacked another police base in Zambales province.

Report reaching Camp Crame said that more or less 20 heavily-armed NPA rebels attacked the base of the 2nd Maneuver Platoon of the Provincial Public Safety Company (PPSC) in Barangay Taugtog, Botolan town at around 1:01 a.m.
“The PPSC men were able to return fire and defended their platoon base and hold their grounds prompting the enemy to withdraw and left the place,” the report said.
There were no reported casualties during the firefight.
Senior Insp. Randy Mendoza, chief of the 2nd Maneuver Platoon, immediately reported the harassment and attack to the Botolan Municipal Police Station.
At the Botolan MPS at around 1:15 a.m., on duty policemen also saw more or less five suspicious-looking men crawling toward the police station.
The lawmen fired at the suspicious men, prompting them to run away from the police base.
Elements of the Army’s 33rd Mechanized Infantry Company, along with Zambales Provincial Police Office, were dispatched to conduct pursuit operations against the NPA band.
Last week, NPA rebels overran the Maasin Municipal Police Station in Iloilo – carting away dozens of firearms and ammunition.
The Iloilo attack came barely two days after the National Democratic Front chief negotiator Fidel Agcaioili asked the NPA to stop offensive operations aginst government forces.

Gov’t emissaries meet with Maute

Monday, 26 June 2017 00:00 Published in Headlines


The government sent yesterday emissaries to talk to Abdullah Maute who, with his brother Omar, leads the Maute group that launched the Islamic State (IS)-inspired occupation of Marawi City, amid an eight-hour truce in the more than one-month battle in deference to the Islamic feast Eid’l Fitr.
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Assistant Secretary retired General Dickson Hermoso, who also is supervising efforts to free trapped civilians in Marawi City, said the humanitarian pause of the state forces that was scheduled from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. yesterday was extended to make way for the meeting between eight Maranao leaders and Maute.
Hermoso withheld information on the discussions “to avoid jeopardizing” the objectives of the meeting.Hermoso said the eight Muslim emissaries went to the conflict zone in  Marawi City with rescue teams.

Military guns and bombs went silent for eight hours yesterday after the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) declared the humanitarian pause in its ongoing operations in respect to the Muslim world’s celebration of the holiday that marks a month of fasting for Ramadan.
Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr., AFP spokesman, said that the unilateral truce was recommended by Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) commander Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. and subsequently approved by AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año.
“We need to balance this because this is very precarious,” Hermoso told reporters.
Hermoso said among the immediate positive results of the meeting was the Maute group’s release of some women and children captives on Sunday. He said, however, the emissaries initially were shot at by rebel snipers.
“We hope both sides will again grant us the respite, we have only established a foothold with the Maute,” Hermoso added.
The military earlier said Maute had fled from the battle zone and that his brother, Omarkhayam, was among three of the seven Maute brothers killed.
Rescue teams tried to reach trapped civilians and recover bodies of dead residents killed in the city battered for weeks by clashes, air strikes and artillery shelling.
Military spokesman Jo-Ar Herrera said troops had not resumed operations after the truce and were holding defensive positions.
“We have reports there were around five people who came out from ground zero,” Herrera said in a television interview.
“We’re very confident we can rescue more,” he added.
The violence has displaced some 246,000 people, and killed more than 350, most of them rebels, and about 69 members of the security forces. Twenty-six civilians have been killed but officials believe many more could be dead.
Lieutenant Colonel Emmanuel Garcia, head of the Western Mindanao civil-military operations, on Saturday said intelligence indicated that Malaysian operative and extremist fundraiser Mahmud Ahmad had been killed, while Isnilon Hapilon, the Islamic State anointed “emir” of Southeast Asia, had fled.
Truce holds out
“The humanitarian pause in our offensive operations will only cover a halt in our employment of our capabilities,” said Padilla.
“The “Humanitarian Pause” will be lifted immediately if any of the following conditions ensue: our troops’ security is jeopardized;  safety of civilians is threatened; and if the enemy starts firing and at which point anyone can exercise their right to self-defense,” he added.
The Eid’l Fitr humanitarian pause was the second implemented by the military –the first one was last June 4 which was done to rescue civilians trapped within the conflict area in Marawi City.
During the first humanitarian pause, dozens of civilians were rescued but the Islamic State-inspired terrorists did not observe the military ceasefire and continued firing at the government troops.
Around 100 Islamic terrorists are still putting up pockets of resistance against advancing government forces in Marawi City where the IS-inspired terrorists have laid siege since May 23.
The conflict erupted late last month when government forces attempted to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, the acknowledged “emir” or leader of the IS in Southeast Asia.
Hapilon’s followers from the Abu Sayyaf and Maute group quickly launched widespread atrocities in Marawi City –occupying key areas where they established machine gun and sniper nests.
In a broadcast interview, Galvez said that during the “humanitarian pause” there will be no military movements in Marawi City.
“Our troops only consolidated at our strong points. There was no deployment of military assets as security forces maintained an ‘active distance’ –no provocative movements,” Galvez said.
Navy deploys warship
The Philippine Navy, meanwhile, deployed its youngest warship to  boost the military’s bid to retake Marawi City, Malacañang said.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, in a statement, said that the deployment of BRP Davao del Sur in Cotabato is expected to serve multiple purposes for the benefit of both the troops and the civilians in the conflict-torn zone.
“BRP Davao del Sur will greatly assist in our military operations in quelling the rebellion in Marawi,” Abella said in an interview over state-run dzRB radio.
“Apart from delivering military supplies and relief goods, the vessel will be utilized as a back-up floating medical facility to treat the wounded,” he added.
The warship, which was commissioned last May 31, is the second largest strategic sealift vessel (SSV) for the Philippine Navy.
The ship is able to carry up to 2,800 tons of payload and has an overall length of 120 meters, depth of 21 meters and a maximum draft of 5 meters.
It can also accompany 500 troops, a couple of landing crafts units, 2 rigid hull inflatable boat and 3 helicopters
Moreover, Abella said that the warship is also meant to assist Marawi’s restoration once the siege is quelled.
“BRP Davao del Sur is also ready to provide the support required once the reconstruction, rehabilitation, and rebuilding of Marawi begins,” he said.
Abu medics charged
Rebellion charges were formally filed against two suspected Abu Sayyaf medics before a special Department of Justice (DOJ) inquest panel in Cagayan De Oro City on Saturday (June 25), Justice Undersecretary Erickson Balmes said.
Jadzrie Harad Saabdula, 50, and Jamal Kalib Jamil, 18, were arrested last Thursday while purchasing bulk of assorted medicines at a pharmacy in Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur.
He added the two Abu Sayyaf members were arrested pursuant to the arrest orders issued by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana as martial law administrator.
After the inquest, the prosecutors are expected to issue a resolution and file the case against them before the Cagayan De Oro regional trial court, which was tapped by the SC to hear cases against Maute terrorists.


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