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Tuesday, 17 October 2017 00:00 Published in page one

Top terrorists dead, rebuilding starts — gov’t

Tuesday, 17 October 2017 00:00 Published in Headlines


The government confirmed yesterday the deaths of pro Islamic State (IS) terrorists Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute who led the almost five-month Marawi City siege, prompting the Palace to raise the possibility of an end to the crisis and for the difficult task of rebuilding the war-torn Islamic City to start.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, in a statement, said troops in Marawi City are now clearing the war zone adding the government may announce a winding up of military offensives and for the police to take over security operations.
“We will also announce the termination of hostilities once government troops have ensured that the remaining terrorists holed up in the city are neutralized or captured and that they have cleared all structures of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other traps,” Abella said.
“Once the fighting stops and the clearing operations end, we will put our efforts and energies on the challenging task of rebuilding and rehabilitating Marawi,” he added.
Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar, who was in Marawi City over the weekend to oversee the initial rehabilitation efforts done, promised that it will catch up with the economic progress that the rest of the country are experiencing brought about by the Duterte administration.
“We look forward to raising Marawi from the ashes of conflict and building in a new era where people from the farthest reaches of this Republic can share in the boon of progress,” Andanar said.
Amid growing criticisms against Mr. Duterte’s decision to declare and even extend martial law in Mindanao, Andanar said that the looming victory against Islamist bandits had vindicated Mr. Duterte’s swift decision.
“This clear victory against terrorism proves the Duterte administration’s resoluteness in delivering on its promise of peace and prosperity to the people of Mindanao,” Andanar said. “Despite the criticisms of his detractors, President Duterte pushed on an unrelenting campaign to take back Marawi City through all means at his disposal,” he added.

“We have a president who demonstrates day in and day out that he will spare nothing, not even himself, for the good of our people.”
As approved by Congress, Mr. Duterte’s extended martial law still covers Mindanao until the end of 2017. Hints of terminating it soon remains dim.
Lorenzana confirms killing
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the two terror leaders including Hapilon who figures on the US “most wanted terrorists” list, has been killed in the battle to reclaim Marawi City.
Hapilon’s death came during a push to end the four-month siege of Marawi, a battle that has claimed more than 1,000 lives and raised fears that IS was seeking to set up a regional base in Mindanao.
Mr. Duterte and security analysts said Hapilon has been a key figure in the jihadist outfit’s drive to establish a Southeast Asian caliphate as they suffer battlefield defeats in Iraq and Syria.
“(Our troops) were able to get Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute. They were both killed,” Lorenzana told reporters.
The US government had offered a $5 million bounty for information leading to Hapilon’s arrest, describing the 51-year-old as a senior leader of the Basilan-based Abu Sayyaf group, which the US considers a “foreign terrorist organization.”
Lorenzana said ground forces mounting a final assault on the militants in Marawi killed Hapilon and Maute, one of two brothers who led a militant group allied to Hapilon, early Monday.
DNA tests will be carried out on the two bodies because of the reward offer from the US and Philippine governments, he added.
“The implication of this development is that the Marawi incident is almost over and we may announce the termination of hostilities in a couple of days,” Lorenzana said.
Philippine authorities have made several previous announcements on the imminent end of the conflict, but observers believe this time the forecast is likely to be accurate.
Pro-IS gunmen occupied parts of Marawi, the Islamic capital of the mainly Catholic Philippines, on May 23 following a foiled attempt by security forces to arrest Hapilon, authorities said.
The Philippine military says Hapilon joined forces with the Maute group to plan the rampage.
The insurgents have withstood a relentless US-backed bombing campaign and intense ground battles with troops that have left large parts of Marawi in ruins.
Manhunt on for Malaysian
Security officials last month said other militant leaders had been killed in the battle for Marawi.
Troops were still pursuing Malaysian Mahmud Ahmad in the Marawi battle zone, Lorenzana said on Monday, describing him as the “conduit” between IS and local militant groups.
The restive part of the mainly Catholic Philippines is home to a decades-old Muslim separatist insurgency and to extremist gangs that have declared allegiance to IS including the Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups.
Hapilon is believed to have been involved in 2001 kidnappings of three Americans, two of whom were later killed.
Hapilon was based in Basilan island in the strife-torn south but authorities said in January that he had moved to the Mautes’ base in Lanao del Sur province, 300 kilometers east, to create an alliance and to establish an IS presence there.
Marawi is Lanao del Sur’s capital and largest city.
The deaths of Hapilon and Maute signal the end of the militant groups, the armed forces chief said on Monday.
“This means their center of gravity has crumbled,” Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff General Eduardo Ano said.
“We just needed to get these two (leaders) to make sure the leadership, the center of gravity falls, and elsewhere even the Maute-ISIS (fighters) in other areas would also crumble.”
However an analyst said the deaths of the leaders would likely prompt retaliatory attacks from their followers and allies, with young leaders seeking to take their place.
“Terrorism will take a new form in the post-Marawi period because these terrorist groups linked to ISIS continue to innovate and their actions are evolving,” Rommel Banlaoi, chairman of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, told AFP.
“It’s going to be a new battle.”
Rebuild ASAP — solons
As the armed conflict in Marawi City comes to a close, senators said rebuilding of the province should take place immediately after.
“Let’s start reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi ASAP (as soon as possible),” Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said in a text message to reporters.
Sotto’s called was seconded by Senators Gregorio Honasan, Joel Villanueva, Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri, JV Ejercito, Sonny Angara and Win Gatchalian made a similar call.
Even those from the minority bloc, Senators Bam Aquino, Antonio Trillanes IV and Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, joined in lauding the victory of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), saying that the country is now a safer place for all Filipinos.
Trillanes, a former military officer, commended the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for neutralizing the Maute leaders.
“Hopefully, this also signifies the end of the major hostilities of the siege. This decisive victory is a fitting honor to our soldiers, both fallen and living, who bravely fought in this campaign. Let us now go all out in the rebuilding of Marawi City to start the healing process for all those affected by this unfortunate war,” Trillanes said.
“With this victory, we hope that the firefighting will soon end so the government can immediately lift Martial Law and finally focus on rebuilding and developing Marawi City. As member of the Special Committee on Marawi City Rehabilitation, we fully support efforts to rehabilitate Marawi City and to bring normalcy and prosperity into the lives of Maranao families,” Aquino said.
Honasan, also a former military officer said the government can now proceed with the more difficult part which is sustained rebuilding, reconstruction and rehabilitation of lives, homes, communities and the entire nation.
“It’s a positive development but the battle for the hearts and minds of our people is not won by body count,” he said.
Ejercito said the death of Hapilon and Maute is a victory of peace over violent extremism.
“I commend the men and women of the Armed Forces for defending the Republic. Now, let us start rebuilding a better Marawi. Let us also learn from the lessons of this tragedy by strengthening our intelligence and counter terrorism initiatives,” Ejercito said.
His fellow “seat mates bloc” members – Angara, Gatchalian, Villanueva and Zubiri - also pressed for the rebuilding of Marawi better than it ever was before.
At the House of Representatives, Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo said the neutralization of Hapilon, who was designated by the Islamic State (IS) as emir for Southeast Asia , was also a significant achievement for the global campaign against terror.?
“The determination of President Duterte along with his resolute actions primarily in imposing martial law on the entire Mindanao region at the start of the IS incursion cut short the ambitions of the dreaded fundamentalist group to relocate to Southeast Asia from the Middle East, where its strongholds were practically wiped out by the Western military coalition led by the United States,” Castelo said. ?
He commended the military brass for the noteworthy achievement after a hard struggle that resulted in the loss of 162 lives of valiant defenders of the republic.
Castelo, however, warned soldiers and the police not to let their guards down and heed President Duterte’s warning that the terror problem in the country will not go away with the victory in Marawi City and will persist in years to come. AFP

By Julius N. Leonen

The Department of Justice (DoJ) has yet to receive a response from Aegis Juris fraternity member Ralph Trangia, one of the suspects in the fatal hazing of Horacio Castillo III, regarding the offer to put him under government protection.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II yesterday said Trangia, nearly a week after returning from the United States, has yet to send word on his offer for him and his mother Rosemarie to be placed under the Witness Protection Program (WPP) in exchange for crucial information in the killing of the law student.
The fraternity member, together with his mother Rosemarie (who is also considered a suspect in the hazing case), fled the country last September 19 after boarding EVA Air Flight BR 262 bound for Taipei.
It was later discovered that the Trangias were headed for the United States after both Philippine and Taiwanese authorities confirmed that they boarded a connecting flight, EVA Air Flight BR 56, bound for Chicago, Illinois.

The Trangias fled the country two days before the DoJ decided to place Ralph under the Immigration lookout bulletin.
Persons under the lookout bulletin are barred from leaving the country unless an allow departure order signed by the Justice secretary has been secured.
Authorities had earlier sought the cancellation of his passport to compel his return.
Ralph and Rosemarie are facing criminal cases before the DoJ for the death of Castillo, who was believed to have died after brutal hazing rites by the University of Santo Tomas (UST) based Aegis Juris fraternity last September 17.
The Manila Police District (MPD) also included in its complaint Antonio Trangia, the registered owner of the red Mitsubishi Strada pick-up vehicle supposedly used to bring Horacio’s body to the Chinese General Hospital following the initiation rites that led to his death.
According to MPD investigators, on the morning of September 17, Castillo was taken to the Chinese General Hospital by Solano using a red Mitsubishi Strada with license plate ZTV 539.
But the offer for the Trangias to be placed under the WPP still stands, Aguirre stressed, explaining that Ralph could be a “potential witness,” depending on what he would tell the investigators.
“I encourage Mr. Trangia and his family to fully cooperate and tell the truth and, as a future lawyer, to work for justice,” Aguirre said in a statement issued following the arrival of Trangia and his mother, Rosemarie, on October 10.
The DoJ will resume its preliminary investigation hearing on the complaint on October 24.


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