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Posts tagged ‘United Islands of the Philippines’

Duterte losing favor amid drug killings, wealth allegations

October 09, 2017

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Filipinos’ satisfaction with President Rodrigo Duterte has made its steepest drop since he took office last year amid an outcry over unabated drug killings and unresolved allegations that he has unexplained wealth, an independent poll showed.

The Social Weather Stations said its Sept. 23-27 nationwide survey showed Duterte’s satisfaction rating dropping by 18 points to 48, a level classified as “good,” compared from its last survey in June, when he got a “very good” 66-point rating.

The president’s trust rating dropped by 15 points to 60, which is classified as “very good,” from his “excellent” grade of 75 points in June, according to the SWS poll released Sunday. Although Duterte generally remains popular, the survey outcome immediately reignited calls by several groups for an end to the killings of mostly poor suspects under his brutal crackdown against illegal drugs and for him to sign a bank secrecy waiver to allow an investigation into allegations of undeclared wealth.

An alliance of civil society groups called Tindig Pilipinas said the steep drop in Duterte’s satisfaction and trust ratings means the “honeymoon is over.” “The huge drop in the president’s rating must serve notice to him: the people expect nothing but the truth on the allegations of corruption, ill-gotten wealth, and drug smuggling facilitation leveled against him and members of his family,” the alliance said. “Mr. President, we reiterate our call: sign the bank waiver!”

“The people are now seeing through the hype and fake news, and are realizing that change is not coming under President Duterte’s watch,” left-wing Rep. Emmi de Jesus said, citing “nonstop” drug killings, the rise in prices of commodities and the entry of a large shipment of illegal drugs through the Bureau of Customs in Manila.

There was no immediate comment from Duterte, but he has repeatedly denied that he condones extrajudicial killings of drug suspects even though he has publicly threatened drug dealers with death. He won the presidency with a wide margin last year on a pledge to eradicate widespread crimes, especially drug trafficking and use, and corruption.

Police officials said the arrests of more than 100,000 suspected drug offenders in 71,393 anti-drug raids since July last year help prove that suspects only get killed when they fight back and threaten law enforcers.

The drug killings recently came under renewed criticisms after police shot to death a teenage student they said was a drug dealer who drew a gun while being arrested. Witnesses, however, said the student was shot to death in a dark alley while pleading for his life.

Duterte has also denied stashing undeclared funds in joint bank accounts with family members, saying he would resign if the allegations were proven. He has refused, however, to heed a demand by opposition Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV for him to sign a waiver to allow investigators to examine the bank accounts.

SWS polled 1,500 adults nationwide in face-to-face interviews for the survey, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

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Philippines hails US as top ally, welcomes war games

Manila (AFP)

Oct 5, 2017

The Philippines’ military chief hailed the United States as his nation’s “number one ally” and announced a return of regular war games, following President Rodrigo Duterte’s call for warmer ties.

Duterte last week vowed to be “friendly” with the United States, signalling an end to relentless criticism that included a vow to end all joint military exercises and branding then US president Barack Obama a “son of a whore”.

Military chief General Eduardo Ano, returning from Hawaii where he met US Pacific Command chief Admiral Harry Harris last week, said Thursday the allies had agreed to increase joint military exercises for 2018 after they were scaled down this year.

“The president said: ‘I want to be friendlier to the US’. So we have a closer relationship and more exercises,” Ano told reporters in Manila.

“He (Duterte) said to continue engagement with the United States. They are still our number one ally.”

Ano said the joint exercises next year would focus on counter-terrorism, disaster response and even territorial defense.

As he sought to loosen his nation’s alliance with the United States, Duterte also looked to build warmer relations with China and Russia.

During a visit to Beijing a year ago he announced his nation’s “separation” from the United States.

He later explained he was angry at Obama for criticizing his war on drugs, which has since seen thousands killed and led rights groups to warn Duterte may be orchestrating a crime against humanity.

Duterte said last week the dispute was “water under the bridge” as he thanked the United States for helping the Philippines fight Islamic militants who have occupied parts of the southern city of Marawi since May 23.

The US has provided intelligence, weapons and training to local forces trying to retake Marawi.

The fighting has claimed more than 900 lives and raised fears the Islamic State group is trying to establish a Southeast Asian base in the Philippines.

Ano said on Thursday the Philippines would still pursue closer defense ties with China.

Ano was speaking at a ceremony at which China turned over 3,000 assault rifles and ammunition worth 168 million pesos ($3.2 million) to the Philippine military for use in fighting terrorism.

“The US is not our enemy. China is not our enemy. Our utmost priority is the interest of the country,” Ano said.

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Philippines_hails_US_as_top_ally_welcomes_war_games_999.html.

Philippine troops declare 8-hour cease-fire in besieged city

June 25, 2017

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine military on Sunday began observing an eight-hour halt in its air and ground offensive against Islamic militants in southern Marawi city to allow residents, most of them displaced by the monthlong fighting, to celebrate the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the “humanitarian pause” in military assaults took effect at 6 a.m. Sunday in predominantly Muslim Marawi but will be lifted immediately if the militants open fire or threaten troops and civilians.

“If the enemy starts firing … anyone can exercise their right to self-defense,” Padilla said in a statement. It’s the first planned respite in the massive offensive after a month of daily street battles and military airstrikes that have left at least 280 militants, 69 soldiers and police, and 26 civilians dead. The intense fighting has turned large swaths of the mosque-dotted city, a bastion of Islamic faith in the south of the largely Roman Catholic nation, into a smoldering war zone.

About 500 gunmen aligned with the Islamic State group, including several foreigners, stormed the lakeside city of 200,000 people, occupied buildings, burned schools and hoisted IS-style black flags on May 23.

Faced by his worst crisis, President Rodrigo Duterte responded by declaring martial law in the south and ordering a massive offensive. Padilla said the cease-fire will be observed by the military “as a gesture of our strong commitment and respect to the Muslim world,” particularly to Marawi’s Muslim residents.

The fighting has forced more than 300,000 people to abandon their homes in Marawi and outlying towns and flee to evacuation centers, which rapidly became overcrowded, making it difficult for them to celebrate the Eid el-Fitr holiday.

Philippines says it learned of city siege plans in advance

June 14, 2017

MARAWI, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine government learned days in advance of a plan by militants aligned with the Islamic State group to lay siege to a southern city and staged an army raid on a militant hideout that prevented a bigger and deadlier attack, officials said Tuesday.

Solicitor General Jose Calida said in a report that the government received intelligence information at least five days before the militants prematurely launched their bloody assault on Marawi city on May 23 after government forces raided the hideout of militant leaders led by Isnilon Hapilon.

Army troops failed to capture Hapilon in the raid, which sparked a gunbattle in a Marawi village, but military officials said the assault forced the gunmen to prematurely start their attack aimed at occupying the Islamic city of more than 200,000 people. The rebel plan was to launch the attack on May 26 or 27, the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in the country’s south.

“Specifically, on 18 May 2017, intelligence reports revealed that the ISIS-inspired local rebel groups were planning to occupy Marawi city, and to raise the ISIS flag at the provincial capitol,” Calida said in a report to the Supreme Court, using an acronym for the Islamic State group.

“The said attack would have served as the precursor for other rebel groups to stage their own uprisings across Mindanao in a bid to simultaneously establish a wilayah in the region,” Calida said, referring to the southern Philippine region and the Islamic State province the militants aimed to create there.

Calida defended President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to declare martial law in the entire southern Mindanao region to deal with the Marawi crisis. Opponents have questioned the grounds cited by Duterte for the martial law declaration and asked the Supreme Court to invalidate his action.

Asked why the government failed to stop the Marawi siege despite its advance knowledge of the plot, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the intelligence information was still being vetted, but the military nevertheless planned a raid on the hideout of Hapilon and other militants behind the plot.

“From our point of view, we were able to stop something that could have been much, much bigger,” Abella told a news conference. Abella was also asked why top security officials led by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. joined Duterte in a trip to Russia around the time the government received information about the planned Marawi attack. “They were all on top of the situation. They were actually monitoring everything,” Abella said.

When the military managed to verify some of the details of the plot, it staged the raid on Hapilon’s hideout, military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said. He acknowledged, however, that the military was unaware of the number of armed fighters the plotters could muster.

In his report, Calida said “about 500 rebels marched along the main streets of Marawi and swiftly occupied strategic positions throughout the city” on May 23, adding that the gunmen had “strong combat capability, and seemingly limitless firepower and other resources.”

Army Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, a regional military commander, said 150 to 200 gunmen have been isolated in four of Marawi’s 96 villages, and dozens of militant snipers have been killed, setting back the militants’ lethal firepower three weeks after the bloody siege began.

With the remaining gunmen contained in just a few villages, Padilla said “the worst is over” in Marawi, but added that it was difficult to say when the government could regain full control of the devastated city.

Perched on buildings, some connected by tunnels that gave them mobility, the snipers have made it difficult for troops to wrest back areas under the rebels’ control. The gunmen have also used civilian hostages as human shields, Galvez said.

Philippine officials say 191 militants, 58 soldiers and policemen and 26 civilians have been killed in the three weeks of clashes.

13 Philippine marines killed in fighting with militants

June 10, 2017

ILIGAN, Philippines (AP) — Thirteen Philippine marines were killed in fierce fighting with Muslim militants who have laid siege to southern Marawi city for nearly a month in the biggest single-day loss for government forces, the military said Saturday.

The marines were conducting a house-to-house search for militants allied with the Islamic State group who are still occupying parts of Marawi when the battle erupted Friday, said Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera, spokesman for the Philippine army’s 1st Infantry Division.

He said that about 30-40 militants used civilians as human shields, making it hard for troops to operate, and also positioned themselves in the city’s many mosques. Forty other marines were wounded, he said.

The government had earlier said that the unrest had left 20 civilians, 134 militants and 39 government troops dead. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled the city, parts of which were reduced to rubble by fighting and government airstrikes in an attempt to dislodge the rebels.

“This temporary setback has not diminished our resolve a bit,” said military spokesman Col. Edgard Arevalo. “It instead primed up our determination to continue our prudent advances to neutralize the enemy, save the innocent lives trapped in the fight, and set the conditions for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Marawi.”

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has declared martial law in the Mindanao region, the southern third of the Philippines and home to a decades-long Muslim separatist rebellion.

Philippine airstrike kills 11 soldiers in besieged city

June 01, 2017

MARAWI, Philippines (AP) — A Philippine bomber plane accidentally killed 11 soldiers and injured seven others, security officials said Thursday, as troops struggled to end a bloody siege by 500 Islamic State group-aligned extremists in a southern city, one of the boldest militant attacks in Southeast Asia in years.

The plane was making a bombing run over militant positions in Marawi city on Wednesday when one bomb accidentally hit army troops locked in close battle with extremists who had taken cover in buildings and houses, military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said. The plane had made three successful bombing runs before making the error, he said.

“It’s painful, it’s very sad to be hitting our own troops,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told a news conference in Manila. “Sometimes, in the fog of war, a lot of things could happen.” Precision-guided bombs were used earlier in airstrikes in Marawi’s urban areas, but the military ran out of the high-tech munitions and used conventional ones in Wednesday’s bombing run, he said.

Military chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Ano ordered an investigation. Lorenzana said about 500 militants, including foreign fighters, joined the siege of Marawi, a mosque-studded city that is the heartland of the Islamic faith in the southern Philippines, and that 50 to 100 militants now remain in a few Marawi areas. Eight foreign fighters have been slain in the intense street combat, including a Chechen, a Yemeni and several Malaysians and Indonesians, Lorenzana said.

A total of 120 militants have been killed in the fighting since May 23, when a failed government raid to capture one of Asia’s most-wanted militants, Isnilon Hapilon, triggered the siege of the city by the rebels. Twenty-five of the dead militants have been identified as Filipinos, according to military officials.

At least 25 soldiers, five policemen and more than 24 civilians have been killed in the clashes, Lorenzana said. President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in the Mindanao region, the southern third of the Philippines, to crush the insurrection, and poured in troops backed by airstrikes, artillery fire and armored vehicles. More than 3,000 soldiers, marines and air force personnel are involved in the fighting, backed by more than 30 assault aircraft, military officials said.

The unrest has boosted fears that the Islamic State group’s violent ideology is gaining a foothold in the country’s restive southern islands, where Muslim separatist rebellions have raged for nearly half a century.

“This thing that we see today is the first time that any terror organization in Southeast Asia has taken the bold step to actually overtake an entire territory,” said Jasminder Singh, a senior terrorism analyst with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

He said the siege “will actually become more of a template and motivation for other terrorist organizations who believe they can actually take on government forces.” Officials said troops have cleared about 90 percent of Marawi, a scenic lakeshore city with a population of more than 200,000, many of whom have fled to crowded evacuation camps in outlying towns. About 2,000 people are believed to still be trapped in houses near the fighting, while about 1,000 others have been rescued by police and soldiers from villages that have been cleared of armed extremists, the officials said.

The squalor in the shelters, lack of privacy and shock of the violence moved some displaced residents to tears. Okie Rasul, a fruit vendor and mother of eight, blamed the militants for the uncertainties her family now faces. They fled their home last week amid the horrifying staccato of gunfire and explosions, leaving behind 10,000 pesos ($200) worth of fruit for their business that she bought with a loan.

“We lost everything, our home and my business,” Rasul told the AP as she waited to receive a pack of food and water in an overcrowded emergency shelter in Balo-i town near Marawi. “The only things we saved are the clothes we’re wearing, but at least we’re all alive.”

Associated Press journalists Teresa Cerojano in Manila and Kiko Rosario in Singapore contributed to this report.

Philippines pounds militants; civilians found shot dead

May 28, 2017

MARAWI, Philippines (AP) — Philippine forces launched fresh airstrikes Sunday to drive out militants linked to the Islamic State group after days of fighting left corpses in the streets and hundreds of civilians begging for rescue from a besieged southern city.

The crisis inside Marawi, home to some 200,000 people, has grown increasingly dire as the militants showed unexpected strength, fending off the army and soldiers who went house-to-house in search of gunmen.

The violence prompted President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday to declare 60 days of martial law in the southern Philippines, where a Muslim separatist rebellion has raged for decades. But the recent violence has raised fears that extremism is growing as smaller militant groups unify and align themselves with IS.

Thousands of civilians have streamed out of Marawi and more than 2,000 were still trapped inside the city. Many sent desperate text messages begging to be rescued and reporting that their homes had been destroyed, said Zia Alonto Adiong, an official in Lanao del Sur province, one of the country’s poorest.

Speaking at an evacuation center outside Marawi, Saddat Liong said his house was hit by mortar fire and burned to the ground. Liong, his wife and eight children lost everything, he said — even their cooking pots.

“I feel that we’ve lost our city,” he said. Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said combat operations were still going on but the militants were weakening. “We believe they’re now low on ammunition and food. Compared to the initial days, there has been increasingly less resistance from the militants within Marawi,” he said, speaking by phone from the capital, Manila.

As the government retakes much of the city, the scope of the battle is becoming clearer. Padilla said Sunday the bodies of four men, three women and a child were found near a road close to the Mindanao State University in Marawi.

Eight other men were found gunned down and thrown in a shallow ravine early Sunday in Marawi’s Emi village, said police officer Jamail Mangadang. A paper sign attached to one of the men indicated the victims “betrayed their faith,” he said.

He identified the men as civilians. Marawi is a mostly Muslim city. In addition to the civilian deaths, Padilla said 61 militants, 11 soldiers and four police were among the dead. The violence erupted Tuesday night when the government launched a raid to capture Ipsilon Hapilon, who is on Washington’s list of most-wanted terrorists. But the operation went awry and militants rampaged through the city, torching buildings and battling government forces in the streets.

A priest and several worshippers were taken hostage. There was no word on their condition.

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