Martial Law declared over whole of Mindanao

I left Mindanao a couple of weeks ago, with a bomb going off in the next village killing seven people while we held a family reunion.  Everyone seemed to be expecting the situation to be getting worse.

This is the usual pathway for outsiders to put pressure onto the Philippines President by winding up one of the many terrorist groups that operate out of the island of Mindanao which has a population of around 22 million, approaching one quarter of the total.  Duterte is clearly displeasing the Imperial powers by making friends with China and Russia, and refusing to go to Washington to meet Trump.  The expected pattern would be for America’s secret network of terrorists (Isis, Al Qaeda inter alia) to start operations which can be blamed on a hapless President.  The usual result a climb down and signing away whatever the US demands.  Duterte wants to play it differently.  He intends to defeat the terrorists militarily.   Duterte was in Russia when the explosion of violence occurred, and he’s cut short his trip.  No doubt a lot was achieved despite that.  Inter alia, Duterte is asking for technically advanced anti-terrorist weaponry from Putin to help locate them and attack them in mountainous territory.

MOSCOW – President Duterte put the whole island of Mindanao under martial law as of 10 p.m. of May 23, following violent clashes between government troops and members of the Maute group in Marawi.

The martial law declaration for the island lasts for 60 days, according to presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella.

“[Deputy Executive Sec. Me Guevarra has clarified that this is possible on the grounds of existence of rebellion because of what is happening in Mindanao based on Article 7, Section 18 of the Constitution. This is good for 60 days,” said Abella.

The development also prompted Mr. Duterte to cut short his four-day official trip to Russia before he had embarked on any of the activities on his schedule.

His meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev will be postponed, but a phone call between Mr. Duterte and Putin is being planned, according to Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the whole island of Mindanao was put under martial law even if the clashes were only in Marawi because there are also problems in other parts of the island.

Lorenzana pointed out that Mr. Duterte had already warned that he could be pushed to declare martial law if the situation in Mindanao deteriorates, and that he would use it to solve all of its problems.

He said troops raided the hideout of a top terrorist suspect in southern Marawi City, sparking a gunbattle that prompted the militants to call for reinforcements.

Officials said the gunmen occupied the city hall, a hospital and a jail and burned several houses in a daring attack.

With the martial law declaration, there could be warrantless arrests and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.

Lorenzana said the declaration would also allow security forces to control movements in Mindanao, helping them go after lawless elements.

But he also insisted that state forces were in control and were expected to contain the situation.

Abella also said as much.

“The government is in full control of the situation and is fully aware that the Maute/IS and similar groups have the capability, though limited, to disturb the peace; these have shown no hesitation in causing havoc, taking innocent lives and destroying property,” he said.

According to him, Mr. Duterte met with his advisers before declaring martial law.

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During an interview with Sputnik radio, associate professor at the Higher School of Economics Dmitry Ofitserov-Belsky said that there are various economic spheres in which Russia and the Philippines could successfully cooperate with one another.

“Despite the fact that there are a lot of projects, the overall trade between Russia and the Philippines is still small but there are some issues that concern common interests, for example, the cost of nickel in the world market,” Belsky said.

He further said Russia and the Philippines are one  of the largest producers of nickel ore and finished nickel.

“I think that Russia, for example, can help the Philippines in both developing and processing nickel ore on its own territory and that can stabilize prices for this resource in the international market,” Ofitserov-Belsky said.

According to the analyst, the president of the Philippines has every reason to state that the country needs modern weapons to fight against terrorist groups.

“This is a very serious risk. The Philippines is a multi-confessional country, on some islands there is an exclusively Muslim population that is rapidly radicalized. Currently, there is actually a war going on between the government forces and radical Islamists. It may be just the beginning of more serious problems,” Ofitserov-Belsky said.

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law on Tuesday on the southern island of Mindanao, following the deadly firefight between government security forces and Islamists, Filipino Foreign Minister Alan Peter Cayetano said on Tuesday.

The Philippine southern island of Mindanao is regularly subjected to attacks by terrorist groups, in particular, Maute, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Abu Sayyaf militant groups, linked with Daesh.

According to the analyst, considering the situation with terrorism, it may of course be necessary to help the Philippines in this matter, but probably not in terms of the “first aid” as maybe Duterte was hoping.

“It could be by giving recommendations, perhaps, armaments, if, of course, we are satisfied with the conditions,” the analyst concluded.

Earlier, the Philippines’ leader said that the country “would be the first to join” if China and Russia “will decide to create a new order.” He also said that Manila intends to cooperate with Moscow and Beijing rather than with Washington, amid a rift in relations with the United States.

Such statements by Duterte have provoked suggestions that Manila is preparing a dramatic change in its foreign policy, including turning away from one of its main allies, the US.

ISIS-Linked Militants Behead Police Chief in Philippines

Updated: 11:11 AM ET | Originally published: May 23, 2017

(MANILA, Philippines) — Islamic State group-linked militants swept through a southern Philippine city, beheading a police chief, burning buildings, seizing a Catholic priest and his worshippers and raising the black flag of IS, authorities said Wednesday. President Rodrigo Duterte, who had declared martial law across the southern third of the nation, warned he may expand it nationwide.

At least 21 people have died in the fighting, officials said.

As details of the attack in Marawi city emerged, fears mounted that the largest Roman Catholic nation in Asia could be falling into a growing list of countries grappling with the spread of influence from the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

The violence erupted Tuesday after the army raided the hideout of Isnilon Hapilon, a commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group who has pledged allegiance to IS. He is on Washington’s list of most-wanted terrorists with a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.

The militants called for reinforcements and around 100 gunmen entered Marawi, a mostly Muslim city of 200,000 people on the southern island of Mindanao, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.

“We are in a state of emergency,” Duterte said Wednesday after he cut short a trip to Moscow and flew back to Manila. “I have a serious problem in Mindanao and the ISIS footprints are everywhere.”

He declared martial rule for 60 days in the entire Mindanao region — home to 22 million people — and vowed to be “harsh.”

“If I think that you should die, you will die,” he said. “If you fight us, you will die. If there is open defiance, you will die. And if it means many people dying, so be it.”

But he said he would not allow abuses and that law-abiding citizens had nothing to fear.

Duterte said a local police chief was stopped at a militant checkpoint and beheaded, and added that he may declare martial law nationwide if he believes the group has taken a foothold.

Marawi Bishop Edwin de la Pena said the militants forced their way into the Marawi Cathedral and seized a Catholic priest, 10 worshippers and three church workers.

The priest, Father Chito, and the others had no role in the conflict, said Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

“He was not a combatant. He was not bearing arms. He was a threat to none,” Villegas said of Chito. “His capture and that of his companions violates every norm of civilized conflict.”

Villegas said the gunmen are demanding the government recall its forces.

Military spokesman Col. Edgard Arevalo said 13 militants had been killed, and that five soldiers had died and 31 others were wounded. Other officials said a security guard and two policemen were also killed, including the beheaded police chief.

Arevalo said troops had cleared militants from a hospital, the city hall and Mindanao State University. About 120 civilians were rescued from the hospital, the military said.

Thousands of people have fled the city, said Mary Jo Henry, an emergency response official. She quoted another official as saying Marawi was like “a ghost town.”

Broadcaster ABS-CBN showed people crammed inside and on top of public vehicles leaving the area, and some walking on foot with their belongings as they passed through a security checkpoint manned by soldiers.

Martial law allows Duterte to use the armed forces to carry out arrests, searches and detentions more rapidly. He has repeatedly threatened to place the south, the scene of decades-long Muslim separatist uprisings, under martial law. But human rights groups have expressed fears that martial law powers could further embolden Duterte, whom they have accused of allowing extrajudicial killings of thousands of people in his crackdown on illegal drugs.

Hapilon, an Arabic-speaking Islamic preacher known for his expertise in commando assaults, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in 2014. He is a commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group and was wounded by a military airstrike in January.

Troops sealed off major entry and exit points to prevent Hapilon from escaping, military chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Ano told The Associated Press late Tuesday.

“We will conduct house-to-house clearing and do everything to remove the threat there. We can do that easily,” Ano said, but added it was more difficult in an urban setting because of the need to avoid civilian casualties.

He said the group erected Islamic State flags at several locations.

Duterte met late Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin and said he is counting on Russia to supply weapons for the Philippines to fight terrorism.

“Of course, our country needs modern weapons, we had orders in the United States, but now the situation there is not very smooth and in order to fight the Islamic State, with their units and factions, we need modern weapons,” he said, according to Russian state news agency Tass.

While pursuing peace talks with two large Muslim rebel groups in the south, Duterte has ordered the military to destroy smaller extremist groups which have tried to align with the Islamic State group.

At least one of those smaller groups, the Maute, was involved in the Marawi siege. It’s one of less than a dozen new armed Muslim groups that have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and formed a loose alliance, with Hapilon reportedly designated as the alliance’s leader.

Political analyst Ramon Casiple said the Maute is a clan-based group with members in Marawi who came to Hapnilon’s assistance, with some directly assisting in the fighting and others fanning out to different parts of the city, setting up checkpoints and burning some buildings and taking hostages from the cathedral.

“It is difficult to root out because they are from there,” he said. “The Mautes are embedded in the population.”

The group has been blamed for a bombing that killed 15 people in southern Davao city, Duterte’s hometown, last September and a number of attacks on government forces in Lanao, although it has faced setbacks from a series of military offensives.

Last month, troops backed by airstrikes killed dozens of Maute militants and captured their jungle camp near Lanao del Sur’s Piagapo town. Troops found homemade bombs, grenades, combat uniforms and passports of suspected Indonesian militants in the camp, the military said.


Cerojano reported from Manila.

Philippine President Duterte eyes nationwide martial law, says BBC

Media captionResidents passing through checkpoints as they leave

President Rodrigo Duterte has said martial law on Mindanao island could be extended across the Philippines, while the army fights Islamist militants.

Mr Duterte said insurgents had beheaded a policeman on the southern island. At least three other members of the security forces are reported dead.

On Tuesday he imposed martial law on Mindanao, where Muslim separatists and other rebels are fighting the army.

Some of the groups have pledged support for so-called Islamic State (IS).

Thousands of people have been fleeing fighting in the city of Marawi after gunmen rampaged through the city.

Government troops stand on guard during a checkpoint along a main highway in Pantar town, Lanao del Norte, after residents started to evacuate their hometown of Marawi city, southern Philippines May 24, 2017.Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionSecurity forces have been patrolling streets on Mindanao after the declaration of martial law

“I will not hesitate to do anything and everything to protect and preserve the Filipino nation,” the president said. “I might declare martial law throughout the country to protect the people.”

President Duterte, a Mindanao native, said the police chief of Malabang on Mindanao had been stopped on his way home “at a checkpoint manned by terrorists and I think they decapitated them right there and then”.

As he imposed 60 days of martial law on the island on Tuesday, he warned he would be harsh in dealing with terrorism.

“If it takes a year to do it, then we’ll do it. If it’s over within a month, then I would be happy,” he said in a video posted online by the government.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Photo: 23 May 2017Image copyrightAFP
Image captionPresident Duterte’s talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin had to be brought forward

Mr Duterte cut short his visit to Russia to deal with the violence.

During his talks in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he also said the Philippines needed more modern weapons to fight IS militants and other militant groups.

  • Duterte, the controversial ‘strongman’ of the Philippines
  • Philippines country profile

Martial law allows the use of the military to enforce order and the detention of people without charge for long periods.

The Philippine constitution says a president can only declare martial law for 60 days to stop an invasion or a rebellion.

Who are the Maute group? – BBC Monitoring

  • Also known as IS Ranao, the group is based in Mindanao’s Lanao del Sur province
  • Formed in 2012 by Abdullah Maute (aka Abu Hasan) and his brother Omar
  • Ranks are believed to comprise a few hundred fighters, mostly from other armed Islamist groups
  • The group’s first known encounter with the military came in 2013, when it attacked a security checkpoint in Mindanao
  • Pledged allegiance to IS in 2015
  • In February 2016, troops overran the group’s Butig headquarters, killing around 40 rebels
  • The group has also been linked with Isnilon Hapilon, a prominent figure in the Abu Sayyaf militant group

Parliament can revoke the measure within 48 hours while the Supreme Court can review its legality.

This is only the second time martial law has been declared since the fall in 1986 of President Ferdinand Marcos.

Deep-rooted conflict

The violence in Marawi, a city of about 200,000 people in Mindanao, erupted on Tuesday as the army searched for the leader of a militant group that had pledged allegiance to IS, the military said.

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana identified the militants as members of the Maute group. They had occupied a hospital and a jail, and burnt down buildings including a church, he added.

Marawi is about 800km (500 miles) south of the capital Manila.

Mr Duterte had promised that finding a lasting peace on the island would be a top priority for his administration.

But the conflict is complex and deep-rooted, the BBC’s Jonathan Head reports.

Solutions have eluded previous governments, and it is not clear that President Duterte’s reliance on martial law will prove any more successful, our correspondent says.

Map of Mindanao in the Philippines

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