Items filtered by date: Friday, 22 September 2017

'PH failed to detect signs that led to Marawi' – expert

MARAWI CRISIS. Smoke billows from houses after aerial bombings by Philippine Air Force planes on terrorist positions in Marawi City on September 17, 2017. Photo by Ferdinandh Cabrera/AFP 

MANILA, Philippines – Terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna criticized the Philippine government Friday, September 22, for failing to read signs of the "build-up" of the terrorist Islamic State (ISIS) in the Philippines, leading to the siege of Marawi City. 

"The Philippines failed to detect, to read, the indicators, the signs, and the clues that led to Marawi. We have to acknowledge that," Gunaratna said on Friday.

 

"If governments do not understand to read the indicators, then another Marawi is inevitable in this region," he also said. 

Gunaratna was speaking at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Conference on Peace and the Prevention of Violent Extremism in Southeast Asia at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City.

The expert was referring to the May 23 siege of Marawi by the terrorist Maute Group, which is linked to ISIS.(READ:Terror in Mindanao: The Mautes of Marawi)

The Marawi siege triggered clashes with the Philippine military, and prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to put Mindanao under martial law.

The Marawi clashes have killed at least 147 government forces, 45 civilians, and 660 terrorists. The crisis has also forced more than 600,000 Filipinos out of their homes.

'Not an intelligence failure'

In a speech, Gunaratna pointed out that the Marawi siege "is not an intelligence failure," but "an operational failure."

"It is a failure of government to act based on sound and timely intelligence," he said. 

He explained that before the Marawi siege, the Philippine intelligence community had already produced 4 reports on the "build-up" in Marawi. The latest of these reports was published on April 14.

"So you can see that as we look at the expansion of IS in the Southeast Asian region, for governments, it is very important to read the signs, indicators, and clues of the build-up of groups in certain cities," he said, referring to ISIS by its other acronym, IS.

He added that the expertise of ISIS "is distinct" from that of terror groups Al-Qaeda, Taliban, and Jemaah Islamiyah, "which was largely fighting in the rural areas."

In contrast, he said, "if you look at IS, it was always moving from the desert to the cities," such as Mosul and Raqqa.

Gunaratna also said that "IS central advised those groups that occupied Marawi on how to conduct the battle in Marawi."

He cited advice from "IS central" on May 24, just a day after the Marawi siege. This was for the Maute Group to "quickly get a drone up," as the Armed Forces of the Philippines approached Marawi. "So you can see the guidance."

Duterte and previous leaders

At the same time, Gunaratna noted that President Rodrigo Duterte "acknowledged that IS is operating in the Philippines." (READ: Duterte says martial law due to ISIS threat)

"Unfortunately, the previous leaders, the previous bureaucrats, said there's no IS in the Philippines. So I think that the President understood that to fight IS, he needed to identify them," Gunaratna said. (READ: Admit ISIS presence in Philippines, analyst says

"Identifying the problem itself is 50% of the solution," he said.

Former Philippine president Fidel V Ramos, who was in Friday's event, also gave his own "very sound advice" on the Marawi crisis.

"The Marawi uprising could have been prevented if only there was more of what we call in ASEAN 'musyawarah-mufakat.' What is that? Musyawarah means consultation. Mufakat means consensus," he said.

Consultation, he said, can be done through the government mechanism called Legislatic-Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac).

Created by Ramos in 1992, Ledac advises the President and is composed of the Vice President, the Senate President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and other government leaders.

Ramos, who endorsed Duterte for president, said "consultation" has taken a different form under the former Davao City mayor.

"Now the consultation is only among the party leaders. Ano 'yon?" (What's that?) – Rappler.com

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Supreme Court asked to order probe into all EJK cases

JUSTICE FOR ALL. Mourners of the death of Kian Loyd delos Santos demand accountability in drug war killings. Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler 

MANILA, Philippines – Human rights lawyers on Friday, September 22, asked the Supreme Court (SC) to order the heads of the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to "investigate all cases of extrajudicial killing and arbitrary executions," which have reached several thousands in a year. 

In a 34-page petition for mandamus, the lawyers said PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa, CHR Chairman Chito Gascon, and DOJ Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II should be compelled to look into all these killings whether the perpetrators are with government or not, and regardless of whether these are linked to the government's campaign against illegal drugs.

 

Petitioners Anna Baquiran, Mary Jane Real, Maria Lulu Reyes, Joan Dymphna Saniel, and Evalyn Ursua asked the High Court to order the agency chiefs to do the following:

  • Investigate each allegation of violation of the right to life committed in police anti-illegal drugs operations
  • Set up measures to prevent any further alleged violations of the right to life
  • Submit regular reports to the SC on the number and circumstances of “extrajudicial killings,” on the progress of each case, and on measures set up to prevent more of such killings

petition for mandamus is a request filed with the SC asking for an order (mandamus) to subordinate courts, corporations, or public officials to do their duty.

In the introductory statement of their petition, the lawyers said the “killings of thousands of Filipinos” cast doubt on the government’s “ability to enforce its laws,” particularly in recognizing the right to life. (READ: In the PH drug war, it's likely EJK when...)

According to the latest tally of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), there were 3,811 drug suspects killed in police operations from July 1, 2016, to August 29, 2017.

Outside police operations, the PNP earlier said that from July 1, 2016, to August 15, 2017, there were at least 2,187 persons killed for drug-related motives. (READ: Except for killings, all crimes drop in Duterte's 1st year)

Human rights groups, however, estimate that there have been 13,000 killings related to the drug war.

Of these cases, the CHR has only started investigations into about 800, while the DOJ says prosecutors across the country have filed only 19 cases in court.

Investigations have been further delayed as President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the PNP not to share case files with human rights investigators without his clearance.

These investigations so far, according to the petitioners, have not been "genuine" as they have been "unproductive," thus no accused cops have been put to jail. (READ: Impunity Series)

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Marawi battle area shrinks as troops enclose 3rd bridge

MARAWI BRIDGES. The Agus River separates the safe zone and the battle zone. Screen shot of a drone video by the Provincial Crisis Management Committee

MARAWI CITY, Philippines – The Philippine military is poised to control all critical bridges in the battle area in Marawi City, as it begins to occupy buildings located past the eastern mouth of Masiu Bridge in the lakeside village Raya Madaya.

The marines have hoisted the Philippine flag on one of the buildings around the corner of Agus River and Lake Lanao, based on images that circulated on Friday, September 22.

This means troops now occupy both ends of Masiu Bridge. It was a combination of ground assault and air strikes, according to a source on the ground.

Fighting continues in the area, and the bridge remains unpassable due to enemy snipers who still have a clear view of the bridge. The local terror groups have rocket-propelled grenades that can pierce through the military's armor vehicles. It's a sign that enemy space has significantly shrunk since clashes erupted on May 23. Ground troops have contained them on land while the navy and the maritime police swarm the lake to make sure enemies don't use it as exit point.

The war marked its 4th month on Saturday, September 23. At least 887 have died including 151 soldiers, 689 enemies, and 47 civilians.

The Masiu Bridge is the last of 3 critical bridges that the fighters of the Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf Group immediately occupied in the beginning of the war to allow them to control the city's commercial district, Banggolo. 

Locals often refer to the bridge "Raya Madaya Bridge" because it goes right into the lakeside village from the highway.

For months the 3 bridges on Agus River – Baloi Bridge, Bayabao Bridge, and Masiu Bridge – separated the battle area from the military-controlled "safe-zone."

Troops regained control of Baloi Bridge on July 20 and Bayabao Bridge on September 1.

Deeper in the battle area, troops are also gaining ground. Task Group deputy commander Colonel Romeo Brawner said they continue to advance in the area of Bato Mosque, where hostages were previously kept.

High-profile hostage Father Chito Soganub, a Catholic priest, was able to escape last week when troops pushed to control the mosque.

Brawner said the fighting is now in tighter areas, making it more difficult to advance. It gets harder to soften the ground with air strikes because troops are too close to the enemies.

The military said it is still dealing with about 50 fighters who are holding up to 60 hostages.

Brawner said the enemies are taking advantage of the ratholes and trenches they dug inside the battle, allowing them to escape military bombardment. – Rappler.com

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Suspect in Horacio Castillo killing flew to Chicago – TECO

HAZING CASE. A suspect in the killing of UST law freshman Horacio Castillo III has reportedly left the country. 

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Taiwanese authorities said on Friday, September 22, that one of the 3 suspects in the killing University of Santo Tomas (UST) law student Horacio Castillo III "did not enter Taiwan," contrary to earlier reports. 

Ralph Cabales Trangia, a suspect in Castillo's death and an officer of UST's Aegis Juris fraternity, was a transit passenger, and "went to Chicago, USA via Taoyuan International Airport by BR56 on September 19, 2017," according to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in the Philippines.

 

In a statement Friday evening,TECO said Trangia "was only one of the millions of transit passengers who had passed through Taiwan's busy airport and departed for North America."

"At this point in time, TECO does not know Mr Trangia's current whereabouts," Taiwan said.

Philippine immigration records earlier showed that Trangia left Manila for Taipei on Tuesday, September 19, on Eva Air Flight BR262. 

Trangia left the Philippines a day before he and his father, Antonio Trangia, were named by the Manila Police District as suspects in the death Castillo, who allegedly died due to hazing by the Aegis Juris Fraternity.

On Friday, John Paul Solano, the primary suspect in Castillo's death, surrendered to Senator Panfilo Lacson.

Solano was the one who brought Castillo to the Chinese General Hospital after fraternity brothers involved in the hazing contacted him. Ralph Cabales Trangia drove the two to the hospital on a red Strada pickup. The vehicle was registered in the name of Antonio Trangia. – Rappler.com

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