Explosions, gunfire mar first day of Ramadan

MARAWI — The deafening sound of exploding artillery shells and the occasional rapid fire from assault rifles drowned out  the Islamic call to prayer called Adhan on Saturday for the Fajr—the dawn prayer.

 

About an hour earlier, Aminola Mitmug had just had Suhur, or the predawn meal, for the Ramadan, which came five days after troops and police launched deadly fighting against a combined force of Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf and Maute group fighters.

Some of the food he cooked for Suhur came from the relief pack—which consisted of canned goods and noodles—that the local government had given them a few days earlier.

What’s important, he said, was that he performed one of the main practices of Islam and that was to fast—whenever and wherever a Muslim could during Ramadan. In this case, it was inside a cramped evacuation camp inside the provincial capitol compound.

“On the first day of Ramadan, our main problems were water and electricity. But we need to sacrifice. As Muslims, we accept all the trials with patience and we don’t blame anyone for our situation today,” Mitmug told the Inquirer.

About a stone’s throw away from Mitmug’s tiny spot, Moshmerah Dipatuan, 44, cooked some of the food that her family managed to bring when they evacuated as the city came under heavy fire.

Dipatuan said it was a painful Ramadan because aside from lack of food, her family’s home had been torched by rampaging gunmen.

“Our house was burned by Maute men. Now I heard officials are planning to transfer us to another evacuation center in Iligan City,” she said.

“It’s so painful because we do not feel the spirit of Ramadan. The fasting month here was normally festive, particularly at night,” Lanao del Sur Vice Gov. Mamintal Adiong Jr. said.

Adiong explained that Ramadan is the holiest month for Muslims and not observing it properly was more than just disheartening. For the devout, it would be a disaster to miss sawm, or fasting.

It was during Ramadan when the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad happened, according to Islamic beliefs.

“We should be happy but how can you celebrate with the current situation?” Adiong said.

Despite the situation, Muslims displaced by the fighting here continued to perform their religious obligations no matter how difficult it had become, Sambu Datu Dirampatan said.

What’s important, he said, was that they were still alive and able to fast.

“We have to make sacrifices,” he said.

The military has deployed bombers and helicopters for what it called “surgical airstrikes” meant to dislodge the enemy from hiding, and for ground troops to recover parts of Marawi still under terrorist control.

Muslim soldiers, who would otherwise be granted a Ramadan break, were also under instructions to continue with the fight. —WITH DJ YAP IN MANILA

 

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Drunk motorist thought to have died after falling asleep in SUV

MANILA -- Barangay watchmen Ermita, Manila thought a Chinese motorist died inside his car after he fell asleep and caused traffic congestion on San Marcelino Street.
According to a report by Mav Gonzales on "24 Oras" on Wednesday, May 24, the Chinese man was supposedly drunk and that he fell asleep.
"Nakita ko 'yung tao talagang... di ko alam kung wala ng pulso o ano... dahil nashock din ako, ayaw ng gumalaw eh. Hindi ko nga makausap eh dahil di namin magising eh, parang di gumagalaw eh. Amoy alak siya," said barangay ex-O Sonny Rapada.
The report said the barangay officials had called for police to respond to the incident as it already caused traffic in the area.
The report added that when the driver woke up, he seemed to be clueless of what happened.
When the cops came, they approached the man, asked for his license and told him about his violation.
The cops also assisted the Chinese national in going home.
Meanwhile, officials advised the public not to drive if they are under the influence of alcohol.
"Kung nakainom, dapat di na magmamaneho para di na maabutan 'yung disgrasya," Rapada said. — GMA News
 
 
 
 
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NPA to intensify offensives amid Mindanao martial law

MANILA -- The Communist Party of the Philippines on Wednesday, May 24, called on its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), to conduct more offensives as their way of resisting the martial law declaration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
"The Party calls on the NPA to plan and carry out more tactical offensives across Mindanao and the entire archiepelago [sic]," the CPP said in a press statement.
"In the face of the Duterte regime’s martial law declaration in Mindanao, the necessity of waging revolutionary armed struggle becomes ever clearer," it added, as it also urged the NPA to accelerate its recruitment of new fighters.
Duterte put the entire Mindanao under martial law Tuesday night following the attacks of the ISIS-inspired Maute Group on Marawi City, resulting in clashes with the military and police that have killed five and wounded 31 other government troops.
The CPP denounced Duterte's declaration, and said waging an armed resistance is the "most effective way" of resisting martial law which it said it has proven during the regime of the late President Ferdinand Marcos.
"As proven under Marcos, waging revolutionary armed resistance is the most effective way of resisting martial law, defending the people’s democratic rights and inspiring them to wage ever greater struggles," it said.
                                    "Intensify mass actions"
Meanwhile, the CPP also urged Filipinos to decry the 60-day martial rule and demand its immediate lifting.
"The CPP calls on the Filipino people to vigorously oppose Duterte’s martial law declaration in Mindanao and demand its immediate lifting," it said.
"They must carry out and intensify protest mass actions nationwide, banner the demand to end martial law, assert civilian rule and respect for civil and political rights as well highlight the basic demands of the workers and peasants and other democratic sectors," the CPP added.
The CPP said Duterte's basis was made on the "narrow pretext" of the armed clashes "in the vain hope of justifying the martial law declaration."
The group also said Duterte only positioned himself as a military ruler and strongman when he vowed to be harsh against the Maute Group, which it claimed only emboldened the military in committing human rights abuses.  
"In doing so, Duterte has practically ordered the AFP soldiers to impose its rule and carry out more abuses with extreme impunity," it added.
The CPP also warned that Duterte may declare martial law in the whole country in his plight to fight criminality.
"If Duterte succeeds in securing congressional support for martial law in Mindanao, he will surely be emboldened to impose martial law on the entire country. He can easily come up with more pretexts such as 'fighting criminality' and so on," it said. -- GMA News
 
 
 
 
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Monthly lechon feast in QC’s La Loma eyed

Monthly lechon feast in QC’s La Loma eyed
MANILA -- A monthly feast of lechon!
Quezon City Rep. Bingbong Crisologo said he is asking the tourism department of Quezon City's local government to study the possibility of holding a monthly Lechon Festival in La Loma district, the country's lechon capital.
Crisologo said a month lechon feast will entice tourists to regularly visit La Loma and promote it as the Philippines' lechon capital.
"We can close a portion of N.S Amoranto and hold a street party once a month. This would attract more visitors and further promote our district as the country’s Lechon Capital,” Crisologo said in a speech during the annual Lechon Festival in La Loma on Sunday, May 21.
The festival is now on its 10th year.
Pangarap ko dito na tulad sa France na isang beses sa isang buwan maglalagay tayo ng mga mesa ng mga restaurant dahil dadayuhin ito ng mga gustong tumikim ng lechon. At dahil doon gaganda ang ekonomiya dito sa La Loma, mas maraming turista mas maraming trabaho para sa mga tao,” Crisologo added.
A parade of lechon floats, a street party and lechon cooking competition were among the highlights of the festival.
The Quezon City government said there is a plan to redevelop La Loma to make it conducive to tourists.
Among the projects that will be implemented in the district is the construction of a sewerage treatment plant.
The city government is asking owners of lechon restaurants and other business establishments in the district to cooperate with the city's development projects for La Loma. — GMA News
 
 
 
 
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Lascañas' DDS claims 'flooded with loopholes'

MANILA – The first counts, but the second, not so much.
The Senate committee that heard the claims of a former Davao City policeman he killed on the orders of then mayor and now President Rodrigo Duterte said the fabled Davao Death Squad (DDS) did not exist. There was no proof either of “a state-sponsored policy to commit killings to eradicate illegal drugs in the country.”
In a report released on Monday, May 22, the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs also noted that retired policeman Arturo Lascañas was a “credible witness” the first time he testified before the Senate.
During that October 2016 appearance, he denied the existence of the death squad and refuted allegations by another alleged hitman-turned-whistleblower.
Lascañas would later recant that testimony and appear before the Senate in March 2017.
The second testimony, the committee noted, “is flooded with loopholes and uncertainty on material facts. Apart from the lack of corroborating evidence, his testimony was easily negated and destroyed by established facts, legal presumptions, and resolutions of government agencies concerned.”
The committee also pointed out that Lascañas was unable to present any other proof of his claims, aside from his actual confession.
The report was signed by committee chairman Panfilo Lacson, vice chairperson Gregorio Honasan II, and members Joseph Victor Ejercito, Emmanuel Pacquiao, Senator Nancy Binay, as well as ex-officio member Vicente Sotto III.
Senators Grace Poe and Ralph Recto also signed the report, but with notes. Both said they agreed on the recommendations.
Only Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, who had taken custody of Lascañas, said he did not concur and expressed plans to interpellate the report.
Whistleblower cop
Senior Police Office 3 (SPO3) Lascañas was among the cops who testified before the Senate in October 2016, partly to refute claims made by Edgar Matobato, a self-confessed hitman who claimed he was part of the DDS.
Lascañas retired in December 2016. Shortly after, he sought the protection of religious members and went into hiding. In his first press conference after retirement and in several media interviews, he said he changed tunes because he had a “spiritual renewal” and now wanted to tell the truth.
During Lascañas' second testimony, senators assailed him for flip-flopping on his claims, and argued this would be a basis to doubt his allegations. Lascañas initially denied knowing Matobato, but his 2017 testimony corroborated most of Matobato’s claims.
Still, the Senate committee said Lascañas’ retraction “does not necessarily vitiate his original testimony,” meaning the supposed “loopholes” in his first appearance did not take from the accuracy of his first sworn statements.
“His testimony solemnly given should not be lightly set aside and that before this can be done, both the previous testimony and the subsequent one be carefully compared, the circumstances under which each was given be carefully scrutinized, the reasons or motives for the change carefully scrutinized, in other words, all the expedients devised by man to determine the credibility of the witness should be utilized to determine which of the contradictory testimonies represent the truth,” the report said.
Recommendations
Quoting a Supreme Court decision, the committee pointed out that it’s the witness – and not his first statement – that stands to be “impeached” if a witness recants his earlier statement.
The committee recommended to increase the penalty for witnesses who commit perjury, noting that Lascañas’ testimony “only highlights the fact that there are individuals who have the audacity to spread falsity before the august body.”
It also recommended revisions in Senate rules, particularly when it comes to punishing witnesses who make false testimonies: “As it is current worded, the Section does not punish a witness who gives incompatible/inconsistent testimonies. This allows a witness to change his/her position, or recant his/her previous testimony without fear of penalty.” – Rappler.com
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Duterte told Trump to 'keep the pressure' on N. Korea

By the Rappler Investigative Team
     
This story was put together in partnership with The Intercept, which obtained the transcript of President Duterte's April 29 phone conversation with President Trump and shared it with Rappler.
MANILA – While publicly calling on the United States and North Korea to "show restraint", Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte asked US President Donald Trump in private to "keep the pressure" on North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.
In a phone conversation with Trump last April 29 – a transcript of which was obtained by Rappler in cooperation with The Intercept, an award-winning digital magazine that has reported on classified documents – Duterte shared Trump's disdain for Kim.
Duterte said Kim is a "madman" who is "laughing always", has a "dangerous toy in his hands", and can only be stopped by China, "the last card" to avert "so much agony and suffering for all mankind."
The "confidential" transcript revealed the views of Duterte and Trump on North Korea, and uncovered the complicated dynamics between the US, China, and the Philippines.
The authenticity of the document was confirmed by a Palace source. Names on the document were also confirmed by another source in the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The transcript revealed the following:
·         Duterte, in public, urges both North Korea and the US to "show restraint," but in his private conversation with Trump, asked the US to "keep the pressure" on North Korea.
·         Duterte views China as having the ace against North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.
·         Duterte, in public, claims that Trump asked him to call Chinese President Xi Jinping to intervene in the Korean Peninsula crisis. The transcript showed that it was Duterte who volunteered to do this.
·         While the Philippine leader curses at the US in public, Duterte told Trump on behalf of ASEAN leaders, "We support you," as they seek US intervention in the Korean Peninsula crisis. Trump pointed out "we are all counting on China" in dealing with North Korea.
Rappler is quoting verbatim from the transcript, keeping intact the errors in punctuation and spelling, which a Palace source described as "nothing extraordinary" – especially if done in a hurry.
Assessing Kim Jong-Un
The transcript begins with Duterte thanking Trump for calling, and Trump saying he hopes it is not too late in the evening. It was around 10 pm on April 29.
Duterte replied it was all right, as he was just having dinner with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Trump said he knows Duterte doesn't sleep much, "just like me."
Trump proceeded to congratulate Duterte on his "unbelievable job" in the war on drugs. Duterte thanked Trump, calling illegal drugs "the scourge of my nation now."
Trump said he understand this, and he thinks the US "had a previous President who did not understand that" – in reference to former US president Barack Obama, who criticized Duterte's bloody anti-drug campaign.
According to the transcript, Trump then said, "So how is everyone doing, how is the Phls doing?"
This was where Duterte opened the topic of the Korean Peninsula, urging Trump to "keep on the pressure" on North Korea.
"We are doing fine Mr president but in the ASEAN summit every member state was really nervous about situation in Korean peninsula but we would like to tell you that we support you and keep the pressure because as long as those rockets and warheads are in the hands of Kim Jon Un we will never be safe as there's not telling what will happen next," Duterte said. (The transcript misspelled the name of the North Korean leader.)
Trump shot back, "Whats your opinion of him, Rodrigo? Are we dealing with someone who stable or not stable?"
Duterte answered: "He is not stable, Mr President, as he keeps on smiling when he explodes a rocket. He even has gone against China which is the last country he should rebuke. But it seems from his face – he is laughing always and theres as dangerous toy in his hands which could create so much agony and suffering for all mankind."
Trump replied that Kim "has got the powder but he doesn't have the delivery system."
"All his rockets are crashing. That's the good news," Trump added, saying the problem is "when he gets that delivery system."
Duterte: 'The ace has to be with China'
The US president then asked Duterte about China. "Does China have power over him?"
Duterte replied: "Yes at the end of the day, the last card, the ace has to be with China. Its only China. He is playing with his bombs, his toys and from the looks of it, his mind is not working well and he might just go crazy one moment. China should make a last ditch effort to tell him to lay off. China will play a very important role there."
Trump said the US has "a lot of firepower" in the region, including two nuclear submarines, "the best in the world." He also said, "I've never seen anything like they are but we don't have to use this but he could be crazy so we will see what happens."
Duterte replied, "Every generation has a mad man – in our generation is Kim Jung Un – you are dealing with a very delicate problem."
"We can handle it," Trump said.
Duterte replied, "But you can keep the pressure on him."
Trump said he hopes China "solves the problem." He said China has the means "because a great degree of their stuff come through China."
At this point, Duterte offers to call Chinese President Xi Jinping. "I will try to make a call to President Xi Jinping and I will try to tell him that if we will remain to be peaceful, China has the card. The other option is a nuclear blast which is not good for everybody."
'We are all counting on China'
Trump said of Xi, "You can tell him I am counting on him. I have a very good relationship with him. I had him in Florida for two days and got to know him well. He is a good guy."
Duterte promised to call Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua to facilitate the phone call. "It will be good if you can keep on the pressure on Kim but actually we are all worried as we are all within the striking distance of his rockets. We are afraid," the Philippine leader said.
Trump then told Duterte: "We cant let a madman with nuclear weapons let on the loose like that. We have a lot of firepower, more than he has, times 20 but we don't want to use it. You will be in good shape."
"We believe it, we know it all along," Duterte said.
Trump replied, "Pls call China and tell them we are all counting on China. Tell the President – we became friends for two days – he was great."
Meeting
At this point, Trump shifted the conversation to their possible meeting either in Manila or Washington.
"Work it out with your staff," Trump told Duterte. "Seriously, if you want to come over, just let us know."
"Just take care of yourself, and we will take care of North Korea," Trump said.
Duterte replied by saying he will relay his message to other ASEAN leaders.
"Thank you for the concern. God bless you Mr President," Duterte said.
Trump answered, "Take care of yourself, Rodrigo. God bless you."
Reacting to the transcript obtained by The Intercept, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Wednesdaypointed out, "Under Philippine law, there is criminal and civil liability attached to the hacking, unauthorized disclosure, and use of illegally or inadvertently obtained confidential government documents."
The DFA then pointed out that Duterte and Trump "have a good and warm working relationship," and that the agency supports the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
The agency ended its statement saying: "While we value the need for transparency and the people's right to information, release of certain pieces of information, whether accurate of inaccurate, can affect national security and regional peace and stability."
"As such, we appeal to the sense of responsibility and patriotism of all concerned," the DFA said. – Rappler.com
 
 
 
 
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High Senate official wins award for torture

MANILA -- A top official of the Senate is one of the 317 Martial Law victims to have received last May 8 the first tranche of monetary compensation from the government for the human rights abuses they suffered during the period.
 
Senate Secretary Lutgardo Barbo is among the more prominent personalities found by the Human Rights Victims Claims Board (HRVCB) 1stDivision to be a “human rights violation victim,” citing his arbitrary detention, torture and sexual offense at the hands of military agents in 1980.
 
“It is a welcome development, but this amount could not possibly repay the fears that I felt for my life and for my family during the time. I suppose no amount of money could pay for what we have lost,” he said.
 
Barbo, a former Eastern Samar governor and president of the Philippine Normal University (PNU), said that he is grateful that the government is finally “taking concrete steps to help those who have suffered so much during those dark years.”
 
“The scars of those years remain, even after all these decades.  Even among the victims who still live, Martial Law took away a part of their lives that they are never going to get back,” said Barbo.  
 
According to the resolution penned by the HRCVB first decision on his claim, Barbo was arrested at San Fernando, Pampanga by operatives of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) in September of 1980.
 
He was detained in relation to the September 6, 1980 explosion in the YMCA building in Manila, which authorities blamed on the anti-Marcos ‘Light-a-fire movement,” since his name appeared in the telephone book of Victor Burns Lovely Jr., the alleged bomber.
 
Barbo proved to be an “unusual target” compared to most individuals pursued by the security services during Martial Law, as he was already a legal counsel for the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company Philippines at the time. 
 
However, his status did little to protect him from the armed men, who forced him at gunpoint to come with them.
 
“When I told them that I was a lawyer, they said, “Huwag kang mag-lalawyer lawyer dito ah. They told me to be cooperative if I wanted to live,” he said. 
 
Paraded as “one communist terrorist big fish” by the military, Barbo was eventually brought to Camp Aguinaldo, where he was subjected to repeated beatings and long hours of interrogation, as agents would insult him, spit at him and threaten to shoot him in his genitals or his head.
 
The same agents also offered to free him and even schedule him a meeting with President Ferdinand Marcos, if he would “testify against then Senator Jovito Salonga.” Barbo refused the deal, which angered his captors.  
 
Barbo said his worst ordeal was when he was forced to strip naked by a military interrogator, who then hit and probed his private parts with a wooden stick.  
 
“Right then, I thought that I was going to die. I prayed for more than thirty minutes, and ignored everything that they were saying or doing to me,” he said.
 
“What was painful really is to be humiliated like that, and to be mentally and physiologically tortured,” he said.
 
Barbo was detained for two months, until his wife, lawyer Rebecca Barbo, and his mother –in-law Nieves Bautista Ambulo, secured his release. However, he was placed on house arrest and was forced to report to Camp Crame every week.
 
While it has been nearly four decades since his detention, Barbo said that the traumatizing experience remained with him through the years.
 
“For years, whenever I am in a room, I made sure to keep the door open. I could not stand to be locked inside a room – I felt like the ceiling and the walls were going to close in on me,” he said.
 
 However, Barbo said that he wished no ill to the military men who were involved in his arrest and torture.
 
“There had been a time that I wanted to seek revenge, for what they did. But I eventually found out that the commanding officer who was largely responsible for my torture had live a wretched life after the Marcos years,nasira ang buhay. In the end, I only felt remorse,” he said.
 
Barbo said that he has since made it his mission to help those, who like him, suffered abuses at the hands of law enforcers and government officials.
 
In 1988, the Supreme Court, through a decision penned by former Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee, gave a rare commendation to Barbo “for his fearless and unrelenting pursuit of the cause of truth and justice” as lawyer for the families of three fish merchants who were arrested and became missing persons in Eastern Samar during Martial Law.
 
The reparations and the HRVCB are mandated under the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 or RA 10368, signed by former President Benigno Aquino III.
 
The HRVCB has earlier said that the second tranche will be given after the board finishes going over the 75,000 claims of human rights violations that have been submitted.
 
 
 
 
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Militant groups hit the streets to denounce martial rule

INQUIRER.net

Just like back in the 1970s, members of various militant groups and their support organizations are again taking their fight into the streets of Manila to denounce the government’s imposition of martial law in Mindanao.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general Renato Reyes said on Friday that different groups decided to convene in Mendiola to voice out their strong opposition in martial law.

“Today (Friday) we march to Mendiola in solidarity with the people of Marawi and Mindanao. We condemn in no uncertain terms the attacks of the Maute group against the civilians of Marawi,” Reyes said in a statement.

Other groups joining the sentiments of Bayan were people’s rights advocate Karapatan and Suara Bangsamoro, a Mindanao-based war survivor organization. The members dubbed the protest move as “Black Friday.”

During the Marcos regime, militant and leftist groups joined together in holding anti-martial law street demonstrations particularly in Mendiola and Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila, only to be met by violent dispersals from law enforcers.

Reyes said the groups strongly “oppose President Rodrigo Duterte’s martial law and the human rights violations it (entails).”

Bayan said that the administration should address the root causes of the armed conflict as the “only means of achieving a just and lasting peace in Mindanao.”

“The raging conflict in Mindanao is rooted in poverty, inequality, rights violations including the right to the self-determination. These will require more than just a militarist solution,” Reyes added.

“Black Friday” protesters will gather in the afternoon at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila and will be proceeding to Mendiola. Participants are encouraged to wear black t- shirts to show their condemnation of martial law. Eiriel Rain Dollete/INQUIRER.net trainee/JPV/rga

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6 foreigners among terrorists killed in Marawi – AFP

But the military insists this 'does not confirm the clear presence of ISIS' in the Philippines

by Bea Cupin

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The Philippine government on Friday, May 26, said foreigners were among the Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf Group members fighting government troops in Marawi City.

“Malaysian, Indonesians from Singapore and other foreign jihadists,” said Solicitor General Jose Calida in a press conference with Palace officials and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Davao City.

Calida, in explaining why President Rodrigo Duterte had declared martial law over the entire Mindanao island region, said: “What’s happening in Mindanao is no longer a rebellion of Filipino citizens. It has transmogrified into invasion by foreign terrorists who heeded the clarion call of the ISIS to go to the Philippines if they find difficulty in going to Iraq or Syria.”

AFP spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla, who was also at the press conference, confirmed that of the 31 alleged Maute Group members killed in clashes with government troops, 6 had been identified as foreigners.

Martial law was declared over Mindanao on May 23, following what the military said was a surgical strike against Abu Sayyaf Group leader Isnilon Hapilon, who is believed to have pledged allegiance to ISIS. (READ: Making sense of Duterte's martial law)

Critics said the clashes in Marawi did not merit a Mindanao-wide coverage of martial law and that President Rodrigo Duterte is merely using the conflict as basis for imposing tougher measures and silencing dissent.

On May 23, at least 3 fires broke out in Marawi City. Residents have since fled the city as government troops continue to hold clearing operations. (READ: He watched Maute Group kill a cop, then he escaped)

Padilla would only confirm the presence of Indonesian and Malaysian fighters and refused to say how many of each nationality were identified as those killed in Marawi.

The AFP spokesman said the foreign nationals had been residing in the Philippines for “a long time.” “Some have been helping, teaching, aiding, and connecting [local terror groups],” he added.

But no ISIS?

Still, Padilla said that this does not equate to ISIS presence in the country. “Again, on the matter of ISIS the President emphasized that there's ISIS footprint but that does not confirm the clear presence of ISIS itself yet,” he told media in a chance interview.

But a terrorism expert warned the government against downplaying ISIS presence in the Philippines. The country is now the ISIS' epicenter in Southeast Asia, Rohan Gunaratna told Rappler. (WATCH: Admit ISIS presence in the Philippines

Members of the Maute Group, while breakaway elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), "are no longer Mautes" and "are no longer MILF," Gunaratna explained. "They are IS, because they are operating like IS, and they have changed the name," he said. "So we have to name them by the group they call themselves." – Rappler.com

 
 
 
 
 
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No basis for Philippines-wide martial law – senators

By Marvin Sy and Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star)

everal senators do not see any basis for President Rodrigo Duterte to impose martial law in the whole country as various personalities and groups have warned against possible repercussions of such a scenario. AP/Pavel Golovkin, File
MANILA, Philippines - Several senators do not see any basis for President Duterte to impose martial law in the whole country as various personalities and groups have warned against possible repercussions of such a scenario.

Under the Constitution, the President may only declare martial law in case of invasion or rebellion when public safety requires it. The effectivity of the declaration can only last for 60 days. It is also subject to review of Congress and the Supreme Court.

“I don’t see it,” Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said yesterday, referring to any basis for declaring martial law nationwide.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan said while they have given their “critical and guarded support” for the martial law declaration to neutralize the Maute group in Marawi City, “there exists no Visayas-wide nor a Luzon-wide invasion or rebellion to merit the declaration of martial law as allowed under our Constitution.”

Pangilinan said what is happening in the south could be isolated terrorist acts and they would oppose any plan to place the whole country under martial law.

He said martial law is not the solution to the problems of the country such as terrorism, poverty, unemployment and low wages.

Shortly after his arrival from his abbreviated trip to Russia, the President said he might expand the coverage of martial law to the entire country if violence spills over from Mindanao to the Luzon and Visayas regions.

Unstable

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, a former military officer and critic of Duterte, said the President could not be trusted with such a decision and that the Armed Forces of the Philippines could handle the crisis in Marawi City “with or without martial law.”

“Duterte’s erratic behavior is dangerous because a president has enormous powers. So imagine we give the powers of martial law to an unstable individual like Duterte, our country will be in jeopardy,” Trillanes said.

“If we give Duterte an opening, the next (declaration) will be for the entire country. He’s conditioning the minds of Filipinos that martial law is OK – no, that’s an extreme option,” he said.

Duterte, he said, is “pushing the boundaries of our people’s patience, the different institutions and various sectors to test the limits of his powers.”

He said it appeared that Duterte was “trigger-happy” in declaring martial law in Mindanao and has been “itching” to do so, as he did not wait for the Armed Forces to give an assessment or control the situation within a manageable period.

The senator said the President has been making major decisions without prudent consultations, as in the case of announcing the rejection of aid from the European Union.

World is watching

Former national security adviser Roilo Golez, for his part, pleaded with Duterte not to declare martial law in the entire country, saying the situation may escalate and he may lose the people’s support.

“With your indulgence, I offer my unsolicited advice as a citizen and taxpayer. There is no reason for that,” Golez said.

He strongly recommended that Duterte focus all his “strong leadership skills” in resolving the crisis in Marawi City and wipe out once and for all the Abu Sayyaf and the Maute group.

“We have to show the world that the government has the decisiveness and competence to solve this crisis very quickly. The world is watching us now. Please end this crisis fast so we can go back to normal, to business as usual, which is the objective of crisis management,” Golez said.

He said returning to normalization as soon as possible is clear in the National Security Council crisis management template.

“If the crisis escalates beyond Mindanao, that would mean a failure of the management of the Marawi crisis,” Golez said.

He said since the martial law declaration covers only Mindanao, the people in general are with Duterte.

“But an expansion beyond Mindanao I dare say would not generate the same public support and could even erode your popularity in Metro Manila, the rest of Luzon and most of the Visayas,” he said.

Golez said he fully supports the President’s Mindanao martial law proclamation and prays for his success in ending the crisis quickly and decisively.

Human rights advocates expressed alarm over Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said under martial law, the military will have “control of movement, searches and arrest of detained people, suspension of writ of habeas corpus.”

“Given the lawlessness of Duterte’s ‘war on drugs,’ in which the police and their agents have been implicated in the cold-blooded killing of more than 7,000 suspected drug dealers and users, military restraint in Mindanao may be wishful thinking,” noted James Ross, legal and policy director at Human Rights Watch.

Earlier, Duterte was quoted as saying, “Martial law is martial law, ha. It will not be any different from what the (former) president, (Ferdinand) Marcos did. I’d be harsh.”

Ross said Duterte’s casual reference to the late dictator should be alarming, especially for Filipinos who lived through martial law under the late dictator.

“For nearly 10 years, beginning in 1972, Philippine security forces carried out massive arbitrary arrests and detention, torture and countless extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances for which very few were ever punished. The country’s downward spiral continued after martial law was lifted in 1981 until Marcos was overthrown in the 1986 ‘people power’ revolution.”

However, the group said Duterte faces one significant obstacle to becoming the next Marcos: the 1987 Constitution, which places restrictions on the imposition and conduct of martial law.

“Congress can revoke the martial law proclamation by a majority vote and the Supreme Court can rule on the factual basis for its declaration. Martial law can’t be used to suspend the Constitution, the courts or the legislature, and military courts can’t try civilians if the civil courts function. Anyone arrested must be charged before a judge within three days or be released,” Ross said.

But he cautioned “words on paper are just that” and in the coming days and weeks, “(we) will see if the Philippine Congress and courts are up to the task of keeping a wildly abusive President in check. Since Duterte took office nearly a year ago, they haven’t been.”

The group Karapatan urged Duterte to lift the martial law declaration, saying the nation “has gone through the monstrosities of martial law” and repeating it will inevitably worsen rights abuses.

“There are inviolable rights that cannot be foregone, regardless of place, time or context. But despite such safeguards, martial law is a Pandora’s box that will give way to systematic rights violations. Just like in the time of Marcos, these violations will be justified under the blanket of ‘security,’ ‘protection’ and ‘national interest,’” it said.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros said allowing civilians to carry firearms outside their homes to protect themselves or for whatever reason would cause more problems than solutions.

Reacting to the statement made by Duterte about having civilians, particularly those living in Mindanao, armed in public was something that should not be taken lightly.

“If you allow civilians to take up arms then you will only worsen our problems with private armies and warlords,” Hontiveros said.

“This would also add to our problem with the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, which the PNP said has contributed to the rising cases of firearms-related crimes and violent incidents,” she added.

Rather than helping address the problems, Hontiveros said that such declarations by the President would only do more harm.

“His chopsuey declarations and proclamations create more chaos than order,” Hontiveros said.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Senators Panfilo Lacson, Gregorio Honasan, Sonny Angara and Francis Escudero were not as alarmed and would like to wait for further developments.

Like Hontiveros, however, Escudero cautioned Duterte against allowing civilians in Mindanao to openly carry their licensed firearms to defend themselves. – With Rhodina Villanueva

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