Items filtered by date: Saturday, 22 July 2017

Maute Group leader seen alive, unhurt July 17

Photo: Abdullah (left) and Omarkhayam Maute. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS
ILIGAN CITY — Abdullah Maute, one of the leaders of the Islamic State-inspired Maute group, is still alive and unhurt despite the daily air and ground assault by government security forces on their positions in Marawi City.
Agakhan Sharief, a Moro community leader known in the province as Bin Laden because of his resemblance to the late al-Qaeda leader, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer Saturday that he was able to speak with Abdullah Maute on July 17.
“He is unhurt, but the military already cut off the communication signal inside the battle zone,” Sharief said.

He said the mobile phone signal inside the war zone was cut on July 18.
Sharief was able to open a communication line with the Maute Group as he was the one designated to do so by the peace corridor, an effort set up by the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front, to negotiate for the release of hostages.
Sharief said that in his conversation with Abdullah, the Maute Group leader did not discuss the fate of Fr. Teresito “Chito” Suganob, the vicar general of Marawi City.
Suganob and some of the other hostages were seized in a cathedral as gunmen from the Maute terror group laid siege to the capital of Lanao del Sur province on May 23.
Sharief added Isnilon Hapilon, the leader of Abu Sayyaf, managed to escape from Marawi.
“He is already outside Marawi City. He was able to get out last week of May,” he said. SFM



Condemn NPA attacks if you’re sincere with peace talks, Reds told

Photo: Senator Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan II (left) and New People’s Army guerillas. INQUIRER, AFP FILE PHOTOS
Why are you not condemning the attacks if you’re sincere with the peace talks?
This was Senator Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan II’s question for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) after an alleged New People’s Army (NPA) ambush took place in Cotabato City on Wednesday, prompting President Duterte to call off peace talks with the communist rebels.
“Sa mga kausap natin sa peace talks: If you have no control over those who continue to attack government troops and installations, why don’t you condemn these attacks? If you have no control and do not condemn the attacks, why are we talking?” Honasan said in a statement posted on Twitter on Thursday.
“This is bad faith. Lokohan ito,” he said.
Four members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) were wounded after suspected NPA rebels ambushed their convoy in Arakan, North Cotabato early Wednesday.
After reports of the attack came in, Malacañang announced that Duterte is directing government panel negotiating with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) “not to resume formal peace talks unless the Reds agree to stop their attacks against government troops in Mindanao.”
The planned back-channel talks in Europe this week will also be cancelled.
The peace panel, led by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, was set to conduct “back-channel talks” with the NDFP to discuss the resumption of formal negotiations.
In an interview at the Senate on Thursday, Senator Joel Villanueva said he supports President Duterte’s suspension of peace talks following the Cotabato ambush.
“Naiintindihan ko where the President is coming from. Tuwing nakikita ko ‘yung reports about the killings ng ating mga sundalo eh nararamdaman ko po hindi lang ‘yung sinasabi niya pati ‘yung sama ng loob nararamdaman ko rin so I share his sentiment,” Villanueva said.

(I understand where the President is coming from. Every time I see reports about the killings of our soldiers, I feel what he’s trying to say as well as his displeasure, so I share his sentiment.) JE/rga



‘I’m from Marawi City, please ask us, what do we feel?’

Samira Gutoc: Emotional plea
Stories describing the ugly side of martial law in Mindanao had their share of the spotlight at a rare joint session of Congress on Saturday, though they barely had any effect on the session’s expected outcome — the extension of martial law until the end of the year.
The most stirring plea against extending martial law was delivered by Samira Gutoc, Bangsamoro civil society leader, who narrated stories about the alleged harm that martial law brought the people of Marawi, a predominantly Muslim city that came under attack from a homegrown terror group that had sworn allegiance to Islamic State (IS).
“I’m from Marawi City,” Gutoc said at the opening of her plea to members of the House of Representatives and Senate assembled jointly at the House session hall. “Please ask us, what do we feel?” she said.

In her plea, Gutoc listed what she said were stories about abuses and people’s sufferings that martial law had brought Marawi.
One was that of a 20-year-old mentally ill man who had been “psychologically interrogated” after he was accused of membership in Maute, a group of terrorists who had tried to establish an IS caliphate in Marawi.
‘Dig your graves’
She told of the story of young men rescued by soldiers but were forced to walk as they wore blindfolds. A voice which Gutoc said was presumed to be that of someone in authority had told the men: “Dig your own graves.”
Gutoc also told of bodies of dead Muslims not being buried for nearly two months. Islam requires the burial of the dead within 24 hours.
“What if it was your grandfather who wasn’t buried? In Islam, even for a day, it’s forbidden not to be buried,” she said.
She said prolonging martial law would also mean prolonging the indignities that women suffer in evacuation centers.
“Women are forced to strip down in evacuation centers even when we are not supposed to bare our bodies,” she said.

However, Gen. Eduardo Año, Armed Forces chief of staff, said stories about abuses by the military as a result of martial law were mainly baseless.
‘Disabusing our minds’
Speaking also at the joint session, Año said the presence of regional offices of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Mindanao should be assurance enough that abuses would be checked.
“Let us disabuse our minds of the notion that martial law will result in human rights violations,” Ano said, responding to questions from Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr.
Most reports about abuses, Año said, were “speculation,” adding that the Armed Forces was ready to investigate and deal with complaints against abusive soldiers.
While Gutoc sought to appeal to emotion in her plea against the extension of martial law, human rights group Karapatan used numbers to press for opposition against prolonging martial law.
From May 23, the first day of martial law, to July 16, the group said, it had documented 10 cases of extrajudicial killings in Marawi, 335 warrantless arrests and more than 400,000 people displaced.
Called by Sen. Grace Poe to also speak at the joint session, CHR chair Jose Luis Martin Gascon said CHR regional offices in Mindanao, while having no formal complaint against martial law abuses, were validating reports from nongovernment organizations.
Año said the Armed Forces was investigating these reports.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, however, stuck to the official government line that no human rights were violated during martial law in Mindanao.
Unique martial law
“This is the only martial law where human rights [are] clearly being followed,” he said.
Gascon said the CHR had been “receiving more and more complaints” of abuses that the commission was verifying.
Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, said the rights violations that the group had documented in Marawi were “direct consequences” of martial law, calling efforts to extend it as “sinister.”
She said “militarist solutions to terrorism or rebellion are not solutions at all.” “These only magnify the problems,” she added. —With Jocelyn Uy, Jaymtee T. Gamil, and Vince F. Nonato



William, Harry had ‘short’ chat with Diana on day she died

LONDON: Britain’s Prince William and Prince Harry have revealed they talked to their mother Princess Diana on the day she died and that the “short” conversation now weighs “heavily” on their mind. “It was her speaking from Paris, I can’t really necessarily remember what I said but all I do remember is probably regretting for the rest of my life how short the phone call was,” Prince Harry told ITV for a documentary to commemorate their mother. Prince William was just 15 and his brother Harry 12 when their mother and her boyfriend Dodi Al-Fayed were killed in August 1997 after the car they were in crashed in a tunnel in central Paris as it was being pursued at high speed by press photographers. Their French chauffeur Henri Paul, who was later found to be over the legal blood alcohol limit, also died. The two princes were in Balmoral, the queen’s residence in the Scottish Highlands, and William had earlier told Diana of the “very good time” they were having. “Harry and I were in a desperate rush to say goodbye, you know ‘see you later’…if I’d known now obviously what was going to happen I wouldn’t have been so blase about it and everything else,” William told ITV. “But that phone call sticks in my mind, quite heavily.” To mark the 20th anniversary of her death, the princes announced earlier this year they were setting up a committee to raise funds to pay for a statue of Diana, who was known as the Princess of Wales. The statue is to be erected in the public gardens of Kensington Palace in London, where she lived.

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PCSO chair agrees to meet Bato on ‘anemic’ PNP drive vs gambling

Photo: PCSO Chairman Jose Jorge Corpuz. PHOTO BY EDWIN BACASMAS / INQUIRER
Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) chair Jose Jorge Corpuz said he and other officials were willing to meet with Philippine National Police chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa anytime soon to “clear gray areas” in their fight against illegal gambling.
The statement came after PCSO General Manager Alexander Balutan criticized the PNP’s antigambling efforts as “anemic” and threatened to cut the PNP’s share in PCSO revenues with other law enforcement agencies.
He said the agency might also give a share to the National Bureau of Investigation and Armed Forces of the Philippines.
“Let us lay all our cards on the table and not hide any card. If [the arrests of illegal gamblers] were anemic, we have to double our efforts,” Dela Rosa was quoted as saying in an interview.
In response, Corpuz agreed to meet with Dela Rosa as soon as possible.

“Sitting down with PCSO is an opportunity for both parties to clarify issues for the smooth implementation of STL (Small Town Lottery)” and “clear gray areas between the legal STL and the illegal numbers game,” Balutan said.
Corpuz said police assistance in the STL expansion program of PCSO was “very indispensable and critical” but the NBI and the AFP also deserved a share in STL revenues for the medical and hospital needs of its personnel, Corpuz added.
PCSO gave the PNP P180 million in 2016 and around P154 million during the first quarter of 2017 as its share from the revenue of the PCSO.
The funds are part of the 2.5-percent share the PNP gets from PCSO for medical and health programs and not for PNP operations, Corpuz clarified.



Congress votes to extend martial law

Photo: The joint special session at the House of Representatives, Quezon City, for the extention of Martial Law in Mindanao. INQUIRER PHOTO / NINO JESUS ORBETA
In an unprecedented move, the Senate and the House of Representatives met jointly on Saturday and voted 261-18 to extend martial law in Mindanao until Dec. 31.
Despite spirited objections from minority lawmakers, the two chambers passed a resolution extending for five months President Rodrigo Duterte’s Proclamation No. 216, which imposed a 60-day martial rule in Mindanao on May 23 in the wake of terrorist attacks by the Islamic State (IS)-inspired Maute group.
According to the Constitution, 60 days is the maximum period allowed for the declaration of martial rule. Any extension must be approved by Congress.

Malacañang welcomed the positive vote and said Congress’ extension of martial law was “essential to the (country’s) overall peace and stability.”
The nation, said presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella, “has chosen to stand united in defending the Republic.”

The work to improve Mindanao begins, he said. “There is much work to be done in the recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi. Together, let us transform Mindanao into a land of fulfillment,” Abella said.
Before their votes were consolidated, the Senate voted 16-4, while the House members voted 245-14 to extend martial law in the south.
Minority bloc
The four senators who voted “no” to the extension were Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, Senators Risa Hontiveros, Francis Pangilinan and Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino, who all belong to the minority bloc.
Ahead of the voting, security officials told lawmakers that martial law was needed to stabilize a region where IS was gaining influence, and supporters could be inspired to stage uprisings in Mindanao with foreign jihadists.
During the interpellation, Drilon questioned the factual basis for President Duterte’s request to extend martial law, pointing out that only 10 out of 27 provinces in Mindanao were threatened by the terrorist Maute group.
But Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the provinces in the region are contiguous, which makes it easier for terrorist groups to move from one place to another.
Hontiveros said she voted against the extension of martial law because “I have not seen any evidence that [it] offers any distinct strategic advantage to our soldiers in their fight against the Maute terrorists that other laws cannot offer.
“And because I cannot trust a government that has played God with the lives of 8,000 to 12,000 Filipinos to wield martial law judiciously, I voted no,” she added.
Additional tools
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said that extending martial rule in Mindanao would give soldiers and policemen “additional tools” to achieve their military goal by restricting the movements of terrorists, imposing curfews and arresting militants.
“In the immediate term, if by December we see that Mindanao or Marawi (had become) stable, we will move for the lifting of martial law,” he added.
A slide presentation by the Armed Forces compared the crisis in Marawi City to the takeover of the Iraqi city of Mosul. Marawi itself could now become a magnet for foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria, the presentation said.
The military said only about 60 Maute gunmen were left in a 49-hectare area of Marawi, but Mr. Duterte said he needed martial law powers to rebuild the city and ensure that war does not spread elsewhere.
“I cannot afford to be complacent,” the President told reporters on Friday, adding the military would be conducting further “mopping up operations” even after they recapture Marawi.
Martial law, which allows the military to establish control with measures such as curfews, checkpoints and gun controls, has remained a sensitive issue some 30 years after the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos put the country under military rule as part of his 20-year term.
Never again
Thousands of critics, political opponents as well as communist guerrillas were killed, detained or arrested during the period, according to historians.
About a dozen protesters in the gallery interrupted on Saturday’s hearing, chanting “never again, never again to martial law” before being escorted out. The Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office has recommended the filing of disturbance of proceedings charges against the eight activists.
The arrested activists included three volunteer teachers of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev), an alternative learning system for lumad and indigenous youth in Mindanao.
Mr. Duterte had already beaten back a Supreme Court petition to declare martial law in Mindanao illegal. But opposition politicians have criticized his proposal for an extension, with some alleging that it was part of a plot to eventually bring the country under a military-backed dictatorship.
Revolutionary government
After this, he could declare a revolutionary government to allow him to stay in office beyond his six-year electoral term in mid-2022, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman asked during interpellation if the “horrific aftermath” of the fighting in Marawi City could have been avoided had martial law never been declared in the first place.
The Armed Forces chief of staff, Gen. Eduardo Año, said martial law wasn’t the cause of the city’s destruction. “The crisis introduced a new type of urban warfare, notable of which is the total disregard (for) civilian lives, similar to (IS) in the Middle East, [including the] looting and pillaging in occupied areas in Marawi,” he said.
Also on Saturday, some 100 Marawi City evacuees gathered in Iligan City to voice their opposition to the extension of martial rule.
“We want to go home and we cannot do that if the situation drags on,” said Nadji Salahudin, a Grade 8 pupil of Mindanao State University-Lanao National College of Arts and Trade. Extending martial rule means their continued stay in evacuation centers, she added.
“We cannot understand why you did it to us. Please leave us alone. We are not terrorists and we want to live in peace,” Salahudin said.
Abato Saide, a resident of West Marinaut, said the nonextension of martial law would put to a halt the bombing of the city. —With reports from Inquirer Mindanao and the wires



DOTr workers buck transfer to Clark

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) will start on Monday the transfer of its operations from its current main office in Mandaluyong City to a site some 100 km away in Clark in Pampanga province in a move that could mean getting ready for work as early as 3 a.m. for many of the department’s employees.
On the Facebook page “DOTr No to Clark Transfer,” current and former employees of DOTr aired their gripes about the transfer, many asking whether there was “urgent and compelling reason” for the move.
The DOTr will provide shuttle service to its employees at two pickup points—Edsa Shrine and TriNoma. The shuttle from Edsa Shrine will leave at 5 a.m. and the one in TriNoma at 6 a.m.

A member of the 176-employee Facebook group said this meant they would have to wake up as early as 3 a.m. to catch the shuttle service. “What would happen to our health?” said one DOTr employee.
Another employee said he currently gets up at 4:30 a.m. to be at the DOTr head office in Columbia Tower in Mandaluyong City at 7 a.m. With the shuttle arrangement, he noted that this meant he would have to be awake as early as 2:30 a.m.

Ungodly hours
“I would then have to sleep earlier than my kids so I could be up by 2:30 a.m.,” he said. “[Then] I should be asleep by 6 or 7 p.m.,” he said. “Around that time we’re only on our way back from Clark. That’s such a burden for us,” he added.
In a statement, the department said the transfer to Clark was in line with government efforts to decongest Metro Manila, reduce travel time, and improve travel time of commuters and motorists, while helping boost development in peripheral areas.
The DOTr said it had dialogues and discussions with its employees “to thresh out issues, differences and fears about the transfer.”
To address concerns, the agency said it would implement flexi-time and a four-day work week and also provide shuttle service to and from Clark. A subsidized accommodation for employees is also being discussed.
Employees are also given the choice to move to another DOTr attached agency, the department added.
“The first batch of offices will transfer to Clark on July 28,” the DOTr statement said.
Earlier this month, Vince Dizon, president and chief executive officer of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority, said the BCDA was rushing preparations in Clark for the transfer of the DOTr.
Tugade’s dream
He had said that while the envisioned National Government Center was yet to rise in the planned New Clark City, the DOTr would first occupy a three-story building previously used by a call center firm.
The DOTr is currently occupying several floors at Columbia Tower.
Among the offices expected to lead the transfer are those of Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade’s and his undersecretaries, as well as the department’s communications and legal divisions.
Dizon said that unlike in Malaysia, where most government offices relocated to Putrajaya from Kuala Lumpur in one go, the transfer of national government agencies to Clark would be gradual.
The first phase of New Clark City, however, would not be completed until 2022. The Philippine National Railway’s Manila-Clark line, which would connect Metro Manila with Clark, would not be in operation until 2020.
The employees expressed hope that the DOTr would just wait until then to move to Clark./rga



PAGASA expecting rainy Duterte SONA

State weather bureau PAGASA is expecting rain in Metro Manila during President Rodrigo Duterte's second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.

"On Monday, 24 July 2017, Metro Manila will experience cloudy skies with light to moderate rains and thunderstorms due to the southwest monsoon," PAGASA said in a special weather outlook.

In a weather advisory issued at 4 p.m. Sunday, PAGASA said it is monitoring two low pressure areas (LPA) in the Visayas and Mindanao.

PAGASA said that as of 3 p.m., an LPA was estimated at 20 kilometers northwest of Masbate City and another LPA was estimated at 825 kilometers east of Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur.

The weather bureau said the LPAs and the southwest monsoon are expected to bring rains.

Duterte is expected to start to deliver his SONA at 4 p.m. Monday.

Protesters, meanwhile, are expected to gather near the SONA venue at the Batasan Pambansa Complex in the morning.

Malacañang is expecting an up to 90-minute SONA.

Classes in all levels in Quezon City have been suspended due to the SONA. —ALG, GMA News

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