MANILA – The military on Wednesday allayed fears that the Islamic State has infiltrated the Philippines after extremists pledging allegiance to the international terror group clashed with state forces in the southern city of Marawi.
“Categorically, we are saying na we do not have ISIS in the Philippines,” Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Colonel Edgard Arevalo told reporters
The skirmishes in Marawi erupted Tuesday after about a dozen Maute and Abu Sayyaf fighters torched several buildings and raised alleged black ISIS flags.
The local terrorists, Arevalo said, were using the incident to gain recognition from ISIS.
” These so called groups who are posing to be ISIS, they are merely courting the acclamation of ISIS na hanggang ngayon ay hindi pa rin nila nakukuha (which they have yet to gain),” he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte has declared martial law in Mindanao, allowing state forces to conduct warrantless arrests and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.
MOSCOW – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte told Russian leader Vladimir Putin that the Philippines needs modern arms to fight Islamic State and that he expected Russian support.
Duterte also said he had to halt his visit to Moscow and return home as there was still fighting with ISIS’s militants there.
Putin said he hoped the conflict in the Philippines would be resolved “with minimum losses”. He also said there were the prospects for economic and military cooperation between Moscow and Manila.
Putin met Rodrigo Duterte late Tuesday, instead of meeting on Thursday as originally planned.
Duterte earlier declared martial law in southern Mindanao province after fighting raged in southern Marawi City between the army and militants linked to Islamic state.
Duterte, a native of Mindanao, cancelled a meeting set for Wednesday with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
Two soldiers and a policeman were killed and 12 wounded amid chaos in Marawi, a predominantly Muslim city of about 200,000 people, where members of the Maute militant group took control of buildings and set fire to a school, a church and a detention facility.
“The government is in full control of the situation and is fully aware that the Maute/ISIS and similar groups have the capability, though limited, to disturb the peace,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella told a news conference in Moscow.
The Maute and Abu Sayyaf militant groups have pledged allegiance to Islamic State, also known as ISIS, and have proved fierce opponents for the military as Duterte seeks to crush extremists and prevent radical Islamist ideology from spreading in the Philippines.
Abella said the militants “have shown no hesitation in causing havoc, taking innocent lives and destroying property.”
Duterte has warned repeatedly that Mindanao, an impoverished, restive region the size of South Korea, was at risk of “contamination” by Islamic State fighters driven out of Iraq and Syria.
Brigadier General Rolando Bautista, commander of the Philippines’ First Infantry Division, said security forces were trying to locate militants who had scattered everywhere and were blocking reinforcements from arriving.
“There are more or less 100, divided into groups of 10 in different locations,” Bautista told news channel ANC.
“Since they are advocating ISIS ideology they have to show ISIS that they are a force to be reckoned with.”
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said and some 1,000 soldiers would be in Marawi by morning, but warned civilians to stay in their homes.
“There are Maute snipers all around, so the troops are still holding and elements have already joined,” he said.
The purpose of Tuesday’s raid was to capture Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the Abu Sayyaf group which is notorious for piracy and for kidnapping and beheading Westerners. The U.S. State Department has offered a bounty of up to $5 million for Hapilon’s arrest.
The military has not explained how the raid on an apartment turned into urban warfare that was still raging 12 hours later.
The incident highlights the challenges facing Duterte, who has pleaded with separatists and moderate Muslims in the predominantly Catholic nation to shun Abu Sayyaf and Maute.
He has threatened several times to declare martial law in Mindanano, and deliver a “harsh” crackdown. Martial law will apply for 60 days.
The government has blamed the Maute for a bombing in September 2016 at a street market in Duterte’s hometown of Davao City, which killed 14 people and wounded dozens.
Maute fighters took over a disused building in the region in November and endured five days of military air and ground assaults before fleeing, with 61 fighters killed. – with a report from Doris Bigornia, ABS-CBN News
President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said martial law in Mindanao will be no different from the martial law period during the time of President Ferdinand Marcos, saying he will deal harshly with terrorists.
In a video interview, the President told Filipinos not to be scared, saying he is cutting his short his trip to Russia to deal with the terrorist attack in Marawi City.
“Mga kababayan, do not be too scared. I am going home. I am cutting my visit here to be with my countrymen and I will deal with the problem once I arrive,” he said in a Facebook Live interview with Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson.
He also pointed out that he had vowed to deal harshly with terrorism even during the presidential campaign.
“Let me just tell everybody that I have declared martial law for Mindanao. How long? Well, if it will take a year to do it, we’ll do it. If it’s over within a month, I will be happy. Pero ang martial law is martial law ha. So kayong mga kababayan ko, you have experienced martial law it will not be any different from what the President Marcos did. I’ll be harsh.”
“I have to do it to preserve the Republic of the Philippines.”
MANILA – Davao City has been placed under lockdown after terrorist activity in nearby Marawi City prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio said Wednesday.
“Mayroon kaming in-implement na lockdown for Davao City so intense iyung — mayroon kaming 3 checkpoints dito sa mga pumapasok sa Davao City,” the President’s daughter said in a phone interview with radio DZMM.
(We implemented a lock down for Davao City. We have 3 checkpoints for those entering our town.)
Duterte-Carpio said authorities are on the lookout for the possible presence of Maute extremists in Davao City.
“Hindi ko masyadong mabigay ang specific details. Mayroon kami dito, we are already pursuing efforts to remove po sila from Davao City… Kino-consider din namin na mayroon pang isa na nasa loob ng Davao City. Kinonsider din namin ang possibility na mayroong papasok from outside papuntang Davao City,” she said.
(I cannot give specific details but we have extremists here and we are already pursuing efforts to remove them from Davao City. We are also considering reports that one extremist is still inside the city. We have also considered the possibility that other terrorists may enter Davao City.)
Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao after Maute fighters and a group under Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon torched buildings in Marawi City on Tuesday, sparking fighting that left 3 security forces killed and 12 other wounded.
Sporadic gunfire clattered throughout the city until early Wednesday.
Duterte-Carpio said the President, who is returning from an official visit in Russia, has called her to check on Davao City, where he was once a longtime mayor.
“Pinakaintindi ko sa kanya na kami na ang bahala sa pag-secure ng Davao City and he just focus sa problem sa Marawi City, and most likely problem areas na mangyayari rin in the coming days.”
(I made him understand that we will secure Davao City on our own and he should just focus on the problem in Marawi C
MANILA, Philippines – Would you really want to be mentioned in the same breath as North Korea and Syria?
A Human Rights Watch (HRW) official posed this question to the Philippine government as he urged the Duterte administration to understand “that there will be consequences” for the high death toll in its drug war.
“There’s a human rights commission meeting which is starting next week and the Philippines will be high on the agenda. The Philippines will be on the same category as North Korea and Syria and governments like that,” HRW Emergencies Director Peter Bouckaert told Rappler, as HRW launched a report on the role of Philippine police in the killing of drug suspects.
Bouckaert added: “So do you really want to go from one of the most vibrant civil societies in Asia to being in a category with those kinds of criminals? But that’s the future and that’s the risk.”
The New York-based organization said in its report released on Thursday, March 2, that Philippine police were responsible for extrajudicial killings linked to the drug war. It also noted that police planted evidence and faked post-operation reports to justify the killing of suspects allegedly in the conduct of police operations.
“There is a tremendous interest at the level of the international community at what’s happening in the Philippines. And the Philippine government needs to understand that their problems with the international community will not go away unless these killings stop,” said Bouckaert.
Bouckaert is a veteran of fact-finding missions to Lebanon, Kosovo, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Macedonia, Indonesia, Uganda, and Sierra Leone.
In its report, HRW urged Philippine officials to suspend “buy-bust” operations, which are allegedly used as a cover-up for extrajudicial killings. They also called on different government agencies to investigate allegations of killings committed by police themselves.
President Rodrigo Duterte had suspended all police anti-illegal drugs operations after the death of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo made headlines at home and abroad. Police belonging to the anti-illegal drugs group kidnapped and killed Jee inside Camp Crame, the national police headquarters.
The suspension of the police’s anti-drug campaign was short-lived. After 4 weeks, or a few days before HRW report was released, Duterte allowed the return of police to the drug war.
HRW also called on the Philippines’ foreign donors to withhold “any financial assistance, training programs, weapons sales, and capacity-building programs with the Philippine National Police” until the drug war is fully suspended and investigations begin.
It also the made the following recommendations to foreign donors, including the United States, the European Union, Japan, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank:
- Press the Duterte administration to renounce extrajudicial executions by state security forces and initiate impartial investigations into alleged extrajudicial killings
- Revoke technical, financial, and other assistance to any security forces implicated in widespread or systematic abuses and for which the government has not sought to hold those responsible to account
- Publicly criticize statements by Philippine government officials, including Duterte, that appear to support extrajudicial executions and other unlawful crime control measures
- Support domestic nongovernmental organizations that provide legal or other services to families of victims of extrajudicial killings by the security forces, and those that provide rehabilitative programs to drug users, including children
- Offer to provide support for international law enforcement assistance with investigations into alleged human rights violations
- Fund and encourage programs, including pilot programs, emphasizing best international practices in public health approaches to drug use
HRW also called on the US, a long-time ally of Philippine police, to make the following adjustments:
- Impose a moratorium on planned and future weapons sales to the PNP until the abusive anti-drug campaign ends and meaningful actions are taken to investigate and prosecute those responsible
- The US-led Millennium Challenge Corporation should continue to defer grants to the Philippines on grounds relating to the rule of law and respect for civil liberties, first announced in December 2016, until the Duterte administration ends its abusive anti-drug campaign and takes action to meaningfully investigate those responsible
- The State Department and Department of Defence should continue to vigorously vet all members of the PNP and other Philippine government officials who are involved in US training or joint US-Philippines law enforcement or military operations for possible involvement in gross human rights violations, both as legally required under the Leahy Law and as a matter of policy so that the US is not complicit in serious abuses
- The US State Department should ensure that Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL)-funded training to PNP units neither encourages nor incentivizes high numbers of arrests for drug possession and instead emphasizes that arrest numbers are not a valid measure of law enforcement performance
- The US military should reduce direct assistance to and cooperation with the Armed Forces of the Philippines if the Philippine government deploys AFP units to the anti-drug campaign and there are credible allegations that AFP personnel are committing unlawful killings with impunity
The Duterte administration has been largely dismissive of the HRW probe, calling it “thoughtless and irresponsible.” Hours after the report was released, Duterte said in a public event that there will be “more killings” in his drug war.
It’s a response HRW expected. After all, Duterte, a long-time mayor of Davao City, is known for his tirades against foreign government, organizations, and even world leaders who criticize his vaunted anti-crime campaign.
“We know exactly what the response of the Filipino authorities will be. They will say that we are a bunch of foreigners trying to meddle in the affairs of the Philippines. Well, we’ve been investigating the drug war for the last 20 years. We were here during martial law. We’ve been protecting the rights of the people of the Philippines for all that time and we will continue to do so under Duterte,” said Bouckaert.
He said HRW usually provides advance copies of its reports to concerned governments, which are asked to respond “because we’re interested in having a dialogue.” This, however, was not the case in its report on the Philippines under the Duterte administration.
“We only do that when we think the government is genuinely interested in telling the truth. And in the case of the Philippines, the government right now…we don’t think it is possible to have that kind of dialogue,” Bouckaert told Rappler. – Rappler.com