Rody visits Marawi for 6th time

By Alexis Romero

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte yesterday visited Marawi City for the sixth time to witness the unveiling of shelters for the residents displaced by the clashes between government forces and terrorists.

The construction of shelters was part of the “Bahay Pag-asa” project initiated by the Tarlac Heritage Foundation, one of the private groups helping the government rebuild the battle-ravaged city.

Recipients of the shelter would be part of a “green community,” which has solar panels to enable occupants to use appliances and equipment like electric fans, radios and mobile phones.

“We have to finish it otherwise the next generation would inherit this (problem),” Duterte said.

After the event, Duterte visited the troops fighting the Maute terrorists and distributed goods like sunglasses and watches.

More than 900 people have died since the Marawi siege started when the Maute group attacked the city last May 23.

Malacañang also welcomed the holding of a mass at Saint Mary’s Cathedral last Sunday, the first since the crisis erupted.

The cathedral is one of the areas occupied by the Maute terrorists.

“Saint Mary’s Cathedral had been damaged during the siege of the city; and the terrorist group posted propaganda video of their desecration of the cathedral’s religious images,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said.


The 4th National Youth Leadership Summit

Your Armed Forces of the Philippines through 7th Civil Relations Group, Civil Relations Service, Armed Forces of the Philippines and other peace partner agencies will conduct the 4th National Youth Leadership Summit (NYLS) on October 23-28, 2017 at Bahay Bakasyunan Resort and Conference Center, Tanay Rizal. This year’s NYLS theme is “Youth Leaders, Working towards Greater Change”. Through this summit, we can further solidify the youth’s support and commitment to nation building and development of our country.

This annual summit is a gathering of youth leaders where your AFP and other agencies can interact with the youth to know what has happened all throughout the year. Aside from the lectures, workshops and team-building activities given to them, it is always a venue to extract good ideas and leadership strategies. This year’s vision is to further develop management capabilities and organizational sustainment of these empowered youth leaders of our nation who are one of the key players and benefactors of development and nation building.

The YLS is conducted through various levels, from national down to, regional, provincial, municipal, and even the barangay level. Today, the conduct of YLS marks its 14th year, through the help of your AFP, the YLS family continues to grow every year. The AFP wants every youth to be a part of the YLS family/graduates for it teaches not only leadership, but it also teaches peace, positivity, and how to be a good and effective citizen. So, to all youth for peace and development, See you soon!

Maute Group now less than 50, resistance has become ‘weaker’ —AFP

THE number of ISIS-inspired Maute Group members fighting in Marawi City has dwindled to less than 50, a military official said on Sunday.

Joint Task Force Ranao deputy commander Col. Romero Brawner said the terrorist group’s resistance has also become weaker even as the government failed to meet its Sept. 30 target announced by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana for ending the Marawi siege.

“Not yet. Not today,” Brawner said.

A mass was held on Sunday at the Saint Mary’s Cathedral for the first time since the Maute group attacked the city four months ago.

“Today [Sunday] is also the feast of St. Therese, one of the patron saints of the military. So we arealso seeking divine blessing so we can end this conflict as soon as possible,” Brawner said.

A total of 749 members of the Maute group have been killed by government troops since the start of the conflict, while 155 security forces were slain in action.

Last week, Lorenzana assured Maute members planning to surrender that they will not be killed if they decide to yield themselves.

“We will not kill people who are surrendering. Our soldiers are not murderers,” Lorenzana said.

He said Lanao del Sur Rep. Mauyag Papandayan, chairman of the House Committee on Muslim Affairs, told him during the Marawi briefing that there were Maute members who have sent surrender feelers.

Troops hear Mass as Marawi fighting wanes


The war in Marawi City has waned, a military commander said on Sunday, allowing government troops to hear Mass for the first time since the battle with the IS-linked Maute group erupted more than four months ago.

No new casualties were reported on this day, although the military continued to operate in the capital of Lanao del Sur, carefully clearing the area of improvised explosive devices (IED) left behind by fleeing Maute members.

“Our operations continue but so far, there is no change to our casualty figures,” Col. Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of Joint Task Group Ranao, said in an interview on Sunday. Asked if the war would end Sunday, Sept. 30, as had been expected. “No, it will not end by [Sunday],” he replied.

Brawner said, however, resistance from the enemy was “waning,” compared with its strength in the early days of the fighting that first erupted on May 23 when Islamist extremists sought to establish an independent state.

WORSHIP RESUMES Holy Mass is offered for the first time at the badly damaged St. Mary’s Cathedral inside the war-torn city of Marawi since fighting broke out on May 23. About 300 government troops battling Maute terrorists assisted in the Eucharist. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

That “act of rebellion” had prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao, which Congress extended until December.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana acknowledged the fierceness of the war could not simply end by virtue of a deadline, saying it might drag on further.

“Marawi City’s complete liberation from pro-ISIS Maute terrorists is not going to happen on September 30,” he said.

“The fierce war for Marawi that has raged for over four months may still drag on for 10 to 15 days,” Lorenzana said in an interview on radio dzBB on Saturday.

This is not the first time that the government has set deadlines to the ongoing clashes in Marawi City.

Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) commander, said the war would be over in August while Lorenzana said it would end in September.

Based on the latest figures released by the military, the war has claimed the lives of 749 Maute members, 155 soldiers and 47 civilians. Recovered were 714 firearms.

About 300 government troops and officers attended the Mass held at the St. Mary’s Cathedral inside the war-torn city.

Among the ranking officials present were Maj. Gen. Danilo Pamonag, commander of Tak Force Trident; Maj. Gen. Rolando Bautista, commander of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division; and Brig. Gen. Melquiades Ordiales Jr., commander of Joint Task Group Tiger.

Brawner said the Mass was held since it was also the feast day of St. Therese, the patron saint of the military.

“So, the Mass was held since we are asking for blessings so that this war would be over soon and that our troops would be safe,” he said.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian visited the troops in Marawi on Sunday and pledged to help in releasing the budget for its rehabilitation

Gatchalian is chairman of the Senate committee on economic development in charge with the rehabilitation of Marawi City.

“He (Gatchalian) visited the IDPs (internally displaced persons) and came here to find out how he can help further with the rehabilitation,” Brawner said.

He said that aside from Marawi, there were also IDPs at Kagiaran, Lanao del Norte.

Galvez met Gatchalian, who joined soldiers in a boodlefight at the WestMinCom.

Troops hear Mass as Marawi fighting wanes

Lorenzana: Marawi siege will be over by Sunday

The Marawi City siege will be over by Sunday.

Thus, said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana who announced yesterday that the Islamic State-inspired terrorists are just holed up within one block in the main battle area.
At the same time, Lorenzana cited another breakthrough in the ongoing military offensives against the terrorists – the capture of the White Mosque.
“I think this will be over by Sunday,” declared Lorenzana, despite the heavy resistance put up until yesterday by terrorists at the White Mosque.
Lorenzana, however, maintained that clearing operations will continue until the entire area is declared free from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) planted by the terrorists.
According to Lorenzana, there are still about 100 terrorists putting up resistance within the one-block battlefield.
The Defense chief also noted the surrender feelers being fanned by the terrorists through Lanao del Sur Rep. Mauyag Papandayan.
“Now, there was this offer to surrender by these Mautes. I was told by Congressman Papandayan…that they want to surrender,” Lorenzana said.
He assured the safety of those who will choose to surrender.
“Just go out with your hands up in the air…anytime they can surrender, they can get out and they will not be killed,” Lorenzana said.
“We will not kill people who are surrendering, your soldiers are not murderers…we will take them and the court will handle their case,” he added.
As of Wednesday, the military claimed to have killed more than 700 terrorists and recovered almost the same number of high-powered firearms.
On the other hand, a total of 151 government troops were killed in action while 47 civilians also perished.
The Marawi City siege erupted last May 23 when government troops attempted to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, the designated emir or leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS in Southeast Asia.
Up to last week, the military said that Hapilon remained in the main battle area leading one of the two remaining groups of terrorists in fighting government troops. The other terrorist leader is Omar Maute of the Maute Group.
Several hostages are still being held by the terrorists.

Defense chief sees Marawi crisis end, preps for rehab

by Maricel Cruz

DEFENSE Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, martial law administrator in Mindanao, has said the military is eyeing to end the Marawi crisis by end of September.

Lorenzana  said Wednesday they would conduct the “post conflict needs assessment” of the situation in the entire Mindanao beginning October and it would take them “a couple of weeks.”

“After that,  we will get a good idea how much we need to rehabilitate Marawi, how long, and how much money we need to rehabilitate,” Lorenzana told reporters at the sidelines of the DND briefing on the Marawi conflict with lawmakers.

Meanwhile, reports from Maguindanao said four local officials were injured after they were hit by two succeeding explosion at the outskirts of Datu Sinsuat town Wednesday morning.

The injured officials were identified as barangay chairman Datu Pendatun Sinsuat, kagawad Sinaribom Lalalog, Army Staff Sergeant Eddie Cane and PO2 Bobby Gulalani Pendililang.

The twin blasts occurred within a 20-minute interval at Upper Semba junction in Barangay Semba in Datu Sinsuat town, said Capt. Arvin Encinas, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division based in Awang, Maguindanao.

Encinas said the first explosion took place at about 7:30 a.m. but left no injuries. The second blast occurred at around 7:50 a.m. injuring the four officials.

Elsewhere in Mindanao, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has offered security to Christian groups who will extend assistance for internally displaced persons in the Marawi conflict, according to Marawi Bishop Edwin dela Peña.

The bishop said MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim assured them of help in the Church’s rehabilitation program that focuses on healing and peace building efforts.

Dela Peña, together with Cotabato Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, talked with Murad in Rome for a meeting convened by the Community of Sant’Egidio, a global movement of lay people known for its work with the poor and refugees.

The dialogue was attended by other Muslim and Christian leaders as well as representatives of civil society from Mindanao.

“Murad gave us assurance that they will provide us security,” Dela Peña said.

Lorenzana said they would get inputs from the people of Marawi and Lanao if martial law was still needed while rebuilding and rehabilitating the conflict-stricken areas.

“Now, if they say our area can do without martial law, we will also consider that. But, the final determination whether to continue martial law or not rests with the President,” Lorenzana said.

He said the defense department would do the necessary recommendation in October on whether martial law in Mindanao would be lifted soon or extended.

Under the “Duyog Marawi” program, the group will focus its operations on at least 13 coastal communities within the vicinity of Marawi.

These communities include Sultan Naga Dimaporo, Malabang, Balabagan, Picong, Marantao, Balindong, Bacolod-Calawi, Madamba, Ganassi, Calanogas, Marogong, Kapatagan, and Tugaya.

These areas were not devastated by the conflict but were “greatly affected” because they lost the center of their livelihood and their basic services when Marawi was put on lockdown.

They also played hosts to thousands of home-based internally displaced persons or IDPs.

“The MILF is patrolling in these areas. If you have Al Haj Murad with us then we can be assured of security,” Dela Peña said.

The MILF has been waging a decades-long rebellion to establish an independent or autonomous homeland in Mindanao for the nation’s Muslim minority.

The Duyog Marawi program will also help the communities of the Mindanao State University and the Balo-i Cathedral.

“We will do what we do best – community engagements and opportunities for healing and reconciliation,” the bishop said.

Dela Peña also asked Christian communities to continue caring for the Maranaos by sending support whether through the government, the Church, or other aid organizations.

“This is a critical moment in the history of Muslim and Christian relations in Marawi—this will either bring us closer or will widen the gap,” the bishop added.

“The peace in Marawi will not only benefit the Maranaos, it will benefit all of us—the whole of humanity. Let us show to the world that violent extremist ideas will not flourish in our lands,” he added.

Maute suffering heavy casualties; Marawi siege won’t last long–AFP

MARAWI CITY—Islamic State (IS) gunmen fleeing government forces had become easy targets for military snipers, which a ranking Army official said was the reason for an increase in the terrorists’ casualty figure.

Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of Joint Task Force Ranao, said 711 IS gunmen had already been killed since homegrown IS affiliates Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf tried to set up an IS province here about four months ago.

Armed targets

The terrorists’ casualty figure was 680 just four days ago.

Brawner said in their haste to flee, the IS gunmen “cannot help but expose themselves to government sniper fire.”

“That’s the reason their fatality figure went up,” said the colonel.

The numbers, though, were not body counts but reports of military snipers hitting their targets. “They are visible from even afar,” said Brawner of the fleeing IS gunmen. “Our snipers saw them and they were armed, that’s why the only option remaining is for our snipers to neutralize them,” he said.

Brawner said as the end of the fighting drew near—“10-15 days more”—the area controlled by the terrorists had grown smaller.

“The siege will not last long,” said Brawner. “But our troops are trying their best to finish the siege earlier than that,” he said.

While there were still up to 60 hostages in the main battle zone, Brawner said the military was certain those killed by Army snipers were not civilians fleeing the fighting.

The terrorists, said Brawner, had split into smaller groups and divided the hostages.

The additional casualties among the terrorists left only up to 70 IS gunmen still alive, he said.

“Most of them are hiding inside foxholes so we cannot really see them all at the same time,” Brawner said.

Government casualty

The government, he said, had lost 152 soldiers and policemen, including those killed in so-called friendly fire.

He said the military was limited to using ground troops in its final assault on the terrorists because “we cannot bombard” areas where hostages were still being kept.

The assault, Brawner added, had been slowed down by booby traps set up by the terrorists. “The enemy has laid a lot of bombs,” he said.

Aside from laying siege to terrorist positions, soldiers had also been helping recover dead bodies in areas already cleared by the military, Brawner said. —JEOFFREY MAITEM AND RICHEL UMEL

Maute suffering heavy casualties; Marawi siege won’t last long–AFP

Military officers lead symbolic crossing of two Marawi bridges

Military officials managed to cross last Sunday two bridges in Marawi City that have been occupied and held by members of the Maute-Islamic State (IS) Group, highlighting the importance of the two bridges in the heart of the city.

Maj. Gen. Rolando Bautista, commander of the Joint Task Force Marawi, and Maj. Gen. Danilo Pamonag, commander of the Joint Special Operations Task Force Trident, together crossed the Bayabao Bridge and Masui Bridge for the first time after the two bridges were recaptured from the terrorists.

The symbolic crossing, which underscored the importance of the two bridges, happened at around 10 a.m. last Sunday as the military pushed on with its assault in the hope of completely clearing Marawi City from the terrorists by the end of October.

Brig. Gen. Melquiades Ordiales, commander of the Joint Task Group Tiger, met the two military officials at the end of Masui Bridge.

Both the Bayabao and Masui Bridges have been held by the Maute-IS Group since the Marawi siege on May 23.

Bautista said the recapture of the two bridges were a significant progress in the efforts of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to neutralize the terrorists, rescue the hostages and regain control of the whole city.

“The terrorists are becoming desperate as our soldiers and police are closing in on their defensive positions. We are continuing our appeal to the terrorists to release their hostages and for them to surrender to the government,” Bautista added.

The terrorists, the military said, were still holding around 40 hostages as they fight it out with soldiers within an area of 10 hectares.

Last Sunday, military officials reported that 151 soldiers and policemen have been killed since May, while at least 694 terrorists have also been neutralized.

During his fifth visit to Marawi on Thursday last week, President Duterte declared “the end of the combat operation is just around the corner”.

He said that once the firefight is over, the task of rehabilitation will proceed in full blast.

Military officers lead symbolic crossing of two Marawi bridges

Troops retake Marawi bridge, seal terror path

by Bill Casas

THE Palace on Sunday lauded government troops for retaking the Masiu Bridge, which they said was significant in ending the rebellion in Marawi City.

“Control of the Masiu Bridge is a significant development in our goal of ending the rebellion in Marawi,” said Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella in a statement.

Masiu Bridge is closest to Lake Lanao and is a possible escape route of the remaining terrorist rebels still holed up in the main battle area in Marawi City, Abella said.

“Government troops are now in the final push and despite the enemy’s continued resistance, our recent successes would hopefully lead to the eventual liberation of the entire city and pave the way back to normalcy,” Abella said.

Generals leading the fight against local terror groups in Marawi City crossed the remaining critical bridges in the battle area Sunday morning, Sept. 24, to mark a “significant progress” in the battle area.

“At 10 a.m. today, Sept. 24, 2017, Major Generals Rolando Bautista and Danilo Pamonag, commander of the Joint Task Force Marawi and commander of the Joint Special Operations Task Force Trident, respectively, crossed for the first time since the start of the Marawi siege, the Bayabao Bridge and the Masiu Bridge,” said Task Group Ranao deputy commander Col. Romeo Brawner.

It was a symbolic march of victory over the hard-fought bridges, strongholds that the Marines were assigned to retake.

The Palace also said the release of the Lanao del Sur drug matrix underscored the ties between illegal drugs and criminal and terrorist activities.

On Friday, President Rodrigo Duterte showed journalists the “Lanao del Sur (LDS) Drug Trade Linked Diagram” with the names of and connections among drug personalities who are allegedly funding the Islamic State (ISIS)-inspired Maute terrorists in Marawi City.

“Local politicians in Mindanao adversely affected by the government’s campaign against illegal drugs have financed the Daesh-inspired Maute Group, whose attempt to undermine our sovereignty resulted in the rebellion in Marawi,”Abella said in a statement.

Abella said the information gave more reason for the government forces to destroy the drug apparatus to protect Filipinos and secure communities.

Duterte has released a “matrix” of drug lords and politicians who allegedly funded the deadly siege in Marawi City, which entered its fourth month on Saturday.

The President said the matrix was a result of intelligence work in the last three months, when government troops were able to gain access to Marawi.

“That’s for public consumption already. The details on how they operated the drug campaign in Marawi and the entire of Mindanao…I told them that we should make it public already, it’s no use keeping it a secret, for what? We cannot consume it. That would explain really the many killings here,” Duterte said.

“There they discovered that the Maute [group] was really preparing for a long haul. Until now, they have never ran out of ordnance, explosives, ammunitions, and all. I really do not know the extent now of the contamination,” he added.

Buses, military trucks deployed for today’s transport strike

By Evan Orias

THE Metropolitan Manila Development Authority yesterday urged commuters to take alternative modes of transport like the Pasig River Ferry System or the agency’s vehicles as a transport group holds a strike today.

The MMDA said it would provide stranded commuters with buses and military trucks at seven areas — Monumento (in front of the Manila Central University), SM Marikina, Luneta Parade Ground, HK Town Plaza in Pasay City, UP Technohub in Quezon City, MMDA parking lot in Makati City, and Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

The MMDA said commuters can take the ferry boats at stations in Metro Manila — Pinagbuhatan station in Pasig; San Joaquin in Mandaluyong; Maybunga, Hulo, Valenzuela, and Guadalupe in Makati; and Lambingan, Sta. Ana, PUP, Lawton, Escolta, and Plaza Mexico in Manila.

The ferries operate from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays. Fare ranges from P20 to P95.

The Stop and Go Coalition said it is holding a strike in protest of government’s plan to phase out decrepit public utility vehicles (PUV).

The group also held transport strikes last July 17 and February 6, and February 27and inconvenienced passengers.

Stop and Go Coalition leader Jun Magno said the group is also against the proposed cost of e-jeepneys which is P1.6 million per unit. The Department of Transportation wants old jeepneys to be replaced with Euro 4 or electric jeeps to reduce pollution in Metro Manila.

The government plans to scrap public utility vehicles older than 15 years, including those with low-emission and vehicles with new engines and chassis but do not comply with the environmental standards by 2020.

The DOTr has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Development Bank of the Philippines for the provision of P1.5 billion for the initial implementation of the agency’s Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program.

George San Mateo, president of Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON), said his group will not participate in the strike because it was not included in the planning of the transport strike today.

San Mateo was charged last Friday by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) for violating the public service law.

The complaint stemmed from the transport strike against the modernization program held on last February 27, of which San Mateo was one of the leaders.

The complaint-affidavit filed before the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office said San Mateo violated the Public Service Act when he pushed through with the strike despite a prohibition stated in an LTFRB memorandum circular saying conducting a strike as a means of protest against a government action is prohibited.

The LTFRB said San Mateo and his group, by holding the transport strike, “capitalized on the public necessity, which they were supposed to serve.”

Reacting to the complaint, San Mateo yesterday accused the LTFRB of harassment, saying the complaint is intended to sow fear among jeepney drivers and operators.

He said President Duterte had given them the go-signal to stage a strike during a dialogue in Malacañang last July 18.