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MARAWI CITY (PhilAmPress) – Although the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Department of National Defense and the Philippine National Police (PNP) have not made their recommendation on the martial law in Mindanao as the battle against terrorists in Marawi City has not stopped, President Rodrigo Duterte has hinted he is likely to extend the martial rule when it expires on July 22.

 

This developed as the number of fatalities in the Marawi siege which flared up on May 23 has breached 600 as more soldiers and terrorists are killed in the battle.

 

In a related development, a Second Quarter 2017 survey of the Social Weather Station showed that 57 percent of those surveyed support the declaration of martial law in Mindanao but more than six out of 10 oppose expanding it to Visayas and Luzon.

  

The extension of martial law maybe made before the President delivers his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) before Congress on July 24, two days before the 60-day martial law decree expires.

 

The 1987 Constitution states that Congress, upon the initiative of the President, “may extend such proclamation [of martial law]or the suspension [of the writ of habeas corpus]for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.”

 

The Supreme Court in its July 4 ruling that upheld Duterte’s martial law declaration under Proclamation 216, raised the possibility of extending military rule beyond 60 days.

 

While in Iligan City visiting the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army, Duterte told reporters that he will not lift martial law in Mindanao before his SONA as the situation in Marawi has remained critical.

 

“No,” the President stressed when asked if martial law would be lifted before his SONA.

 

He reiterated that he would make the decision based on the recommendation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and other security forces like the DND and the PNP.

 

Duterte said he had consulted with the military and was told that the situation in Marawi City was still“critical.”

 
“I consulted them and said it was critical. Ang magsabi sa akin na hindi na critical, ang Armed Forces pati ang pulis (Only the Armed Forces and the police can tell me if it is no longer critical),” he said.

 

 “So, I have just to rely on the word of the Armed Forces and the police because they are the one keeping this Republic healthy and alive,” he added.

 

“Pag sinabi na nilang wala nang delikado [When they say the situation is no longer delicate] and everything is okay, that’s the time we lift martial law,” he added.

 

The President said that he does not “have an independent study” of the situation on the ground.


 “It’s not my job. And I cannot do it physically even,” he said.

 

PNP chief Director General Ronald de la Rosa, meanwhile, sees the need to extend martial law in Mindanao because the security situation there, particularly in Marawi City, is still critical.

 

De la Rosa and Interior and Local Government Secretary Catalino Cuy briefed some senators on the law and order situation and concerns of local governments in Marawi City. Present during the closed-door briefing were Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Senate Majority Leader


Vicente Sotto III and Senators Sherwin Gatchalian, Gregorio Honasan II and Joseph Victor Ejercito.

 

President Duterte will meet with members of the Senate majority bloc on July 17, said Sen. Pimentel, adding their agenda would be the “BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law) and the entire agenda of the Duterte administration, including martial law in Mindanao.”

 

Meanwhile, President Duterte indicated that he needs 10 to 15 more days to end the crisis in Marawi City, adding he was surprised the terrorists have not run out of weapons and ammunition.

 

"Palagay ko, 10 to 15 days, okay na," he said during the 10th listing anniversary of the Davao-based Phoenix Petroleum Philippines, Inc. at the Philippine Stock Exchange in Makati City. "I need 15 more days."

Duterte said he will once again try to go to Marawi City this week after his first two attempts failed due to bad weather. He reiterated that he wants to be with the soldiers while there is still fighting going on.

Echoing Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Duterte said he too was surprised that the Maute group was able to stockpile weapon in the city.

"This is the 45th, 46th day? Hindi maubus-ubos ang [armas], lalo na 'yung grenades," he said.

 

Duterte said he needed to visit Marawi City to check on troops at the frontlines of the government’s battle against pro-ISIS Maute Group fighters in the besieged city. He had already attempted to fly to Marawi twice but each time the weather was not conducive to flying.


“I have to be with the men, the fighting forces of the government. I should show my face there. Hindi naman pwede iyang peace time ka na pumunta,” Duterte said in a brief interview posted on the Facebook page of the Presidential Communications Office.

“Hindi naman na you place yourself in jeopardy, but during the fighting, you should show yourself, that you are one in the desire to protect the Republic,” he added.


“This is the second time. The last time I was not able to go in because also of the weather. Dito naman, ngayon ganoon din nangyari. We were circling many times but we could not penetrate, the weather was really squallid,” he said.


Marawi City has been under siege since May 23, when Maute fighters attacked several key installations in the city. While still in Russia that day, Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao to quell the terrorists rebellion.

 

The AFP has said it would give its recommendation on martial law to the President next week.


Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has previously expressed hope to end the fighting in Marawi in time for Duterte’s second SONA.

 

In the meantime, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said it is already finalizing its recommendations on the possible extension or lifting of martial law.

 

“It’s already being done and in a few days it will be submitted to the (Executive) Secretary for his consideration because he is the administrator of martial law. And that recommendation will make its way up to the Commander-in-Chief who will be provided an advance copy,” AFP Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Resituto Padilla Jr. said during the Mindanao Hour press briefing in Malacañang.

 

He said that the final assessment would be based on whether the rule of law as well as peace and security in most parts of Mindanao had been re-established.

 

The AFP official likewise stressed however that whatever recommendations the military submit, the final decision is up to President Duterte.

 

“The Department of National Defense or the AFP could only recommend, pero ang eventual decision ay kinakailangang manggaling sa political leadership na merong mas malawak na pinag-iisipang o pinagbabatayan ng kanilang desisyon,” Padilla said.

                   
The Supreme Court has upheld Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao.


The SWS survey found that 63% of respondents disagreed with the expansion of martial law in the Visayas and only some 23 percent agreed, while 13% were undecided about the matter.


The survey also found that 67% disagreed with the expansion of martial law in Luzon while only 20% agreed, while 13% were undecided.

 

“Extending martial law is the decision of the President which PRRD said would rest on the assessment and the recommendation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other stakeholders of the Marawi situation,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.

 

His statement was issued following remarks by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez who said that he would push for a five-year extension of martial law.

 

“If I can convince my colleagues, I will push for an extension until 2022, because two months is too short. Five months or one year or two years is too short,” Alvarez said Saturday.

 

However, Abella pointed out that the Speaker has already clarified that “his remarks to extend martial law until 2022 is his personal opinion.” Many senators said they oppose Alvarez proposal.

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(Photo from Philippine Star)

 

MANILA (via PhilAmPress) ― The United States continues to stand by the Philippines in the latter’s fight against terrorism and in efforts to fully secure and rebuild the ravaged Marawi City, according to US Ambassador to Manila Sung Kim.


Kim made the assurance in remarks at the commemoration of the 241st anniversary of US Independence.

 

“We will continue to stand by the Armed Forces of the Philippines as they courageously fight terrorism to keep this country safe,” Kim told a gathering of diplomats and officials at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel.

 

He noted the US and the Philippines share common core values.


“And we are proud of the support and President Duterte’s determination to secure and rebuild Marawi,” he said.

 

Earlier, The United States has transferred 12 Ford F-550 trucks to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Naval Special Operations Group (NAVSOG) during a ceremony at Naval Base Heracleo Alano, Sangley Point, Cavite.

 

Present at the ceremony last June 29, 2017 were representatives from the Joint U.S. Military Assistance Group, as well as Capt. Alfonspin P. Tumanda Jr. and Cmdr. Jim P. Razo, the Commander and Deputy Commander of Philippine NAVSOG, respectively.

 

These trucks will help ease the mobility of the NAVSOG units spread throughout the Philippines including units located in Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga, and Davao, a US Embassy in Manila statement said.

 

They will also aid in the transport and deployment to critical areas of rigid-hulled inflatable boats that were previously delivered by the U.S. to the AFP, it added.

 

The statement further said through a variety of assistance packages over the past three years, the U.S. has provided the Philippines with over US$200 million of grant assistance to assist our partner forces in building the required capabilities for success.

 

Earlier, the ambassador said the US would continue its assistance to Filipino troops, especially those fighting Maute and Abu Sayyaf militants in Marawi.

 

“Our thoughts are with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the residents of Marawi,” Kim said.

 

“They are going through a very difficult time and I will now assure them that we will continue to support them in any way possible going forward,” he added.

 

“This is a good time to think about and reflect on America and America’s friendship with the Philippines.”

 

US Defense Secretary James Mattis assured the Philippines in his address at a regional security summit in Asia last month that the US remained committed to helping a long-time ally under the Mutual Defense Treaty.

 

The US, he added, was unwavering in its commitment to help in the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

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MARAWI CITY/MANILA — Even as the war against terrorists in Marawi City has resumed after an eight-hour truce, President Rodrigo Duterte met Muslim and Mindanao leaders in Malacanang on June 27 to celebrate the Eid’l Fitr, the end of the Muslim Ramadan.

 

During the rites, Duterte, who showed up after six days of absence, stressed anew his promise to the Filipinos that he would secure lasting peace in Mindanao, adding that Marawi City will rise again from the rubbles of the war on the terrorists.

 

"Sabi ko tatapusin ko talaga ito but one thing I will promise you: I will see to it that Marawi will rise as a prosperous city again," Duterte said

 

In his first public speech in six days, the President vowed to release P20 billion for the rehabilitation of Marawi, a cultural and trade center located at the heart of mainland Mindanao.

 

"I need a big amount because I will rebuild Marawi. Kailangan ko talaga itayo ang Marawi kasi, kung hindi, I will remain forever a kontrabida," said Duterte, the first Mindanaoan president. (I need a big amount because I will rebuild Marawi. I badly need it because if I fail to rebuild Marawi, I will remain a villain forever.)


“To our brothers and sisters who have been affected by the violence and conflict in Mindanao, I assure you that the government is committed to securing just and lasting peace in the island,” President Duterte said in his speech before an audience of Muslim Filipinos.


The Chief Executive said the military and police remain hard at work to ending the crisis with dispatch, especially in Marawi City.

At the same time, Duterte said the government will continue to support Muslim Filipino scholars like Omar O. Sacar and Abdul Aziz A. Banisil to help improve the capabilities of the country's youth.


Sacar and Banisil are now studying at the Imam Muhammad Bin Saud University in Indonesia. 

Duterte hoped that the two will become part of the next generation of leaders who will help develop and advance their localities towards greater prosperity and progress.

Amid the continuing conflict in Marawi, Duterte said the entire nation stands beside the Muslim Filipino community.


“We will be with you as you rebuild your homes and localities, and as you realize your dreams of a better life,” he said.


Also in his address, the President expressed his sentiments over the misguided goals of the Maute group, which he said are against Filipino values and are only geared towards destroying lives and communities.

 

Duterte said it pains him to see Marawi crumble in the hands of extremists who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which he said was trying to bring an unacceptable ideology into the country.


“Ang masakit sa akin, na pumasok a fractured ideology na hindi naman malaman sila mismo kung ano ang ginagawa. All that they want is to kill and destroy. Paano tayo mabubuhay niyan?” he said.

The President called for national unity as he extended his greetings of peace for the Eid’l Fitr celebration.


“So let us unite to achieve our common goals. With our solidarity and faith in each other, let us make Mindanao and the Philippines a land of order, stability, harmony and prosperity,” he said.

 

The siege in Marawi City began a month ago, when the Maute group, led by brothers Omar and Abdullah, captured parts of the city in an alleged bid to establish an ISIS province in Mindanao. More than 450, mostly suspected terrorists have perished in the siege.

 

The clashes erupted after government troops attempted to arrest Abu Sayyaf senior leader Isnilon Hapilon in the city on May 23. Hapilon, known as ISIS' anointed leader in Southeast Asia, evaded arrest and has reportedly escaped after weeks of fierce clashes.

 

The conflict prompted Duterte to put the entire Mindanao under martial law, a declaration facing opposition at the Supreme Court.

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Task force created, eyes ex-President Aquino, allies part in PDAF, DAP mess

 

 

MANILA — Promising no selective justice as in the past administration, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre has set into motion a new investigation into the multi-billion-peso anomalies involving lawmakers’ pork barrel dubbed the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Development Acceleration Program (DAP).

 

Aguirre said present and former legislators and Aquino administration officials who were never investigated on their pork barrel and who may have escaped public scrutiny and the Commission on Audit (CoA) special audit will also be the subject of investigation.

 

Earlier reports indicated that former President Benigno Aquino III, former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and former Senate President Franklin Drilon could be the officials to be investigated.


Last month, Aguirre said during a press briefing that allies of former President Aquino like Senators Leila de Lima, Antonio Trillanes IV, and  Drilon and former Budget Secretary Abad were implicated in the PDAF scam.

 

Another report indicated former Senator Manuel “Mar” Roxas II may also be investigated.


Aguirre said lawyer Stephen David, Napoles’ counsel, informed him that Napoles revealed that de Lima, Trillanes, Drilon and Abad were allegedly involved in the anomalous budget program


Aguirre has created a special task force to look into the anomalous multi-billion-peso pork barrel funds. “I have already ordered the reorganization of the Task Force on PDAF cases for the purpose of reinvestigation. I designated Undersecretary Antonio “Richie” Kho as head of the task force,” Aguirre said.

 

Kho’s team is composed of prosecutors and agents from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), according to the Justice chief.

 

The Justice chief said that the new task force replaced the NBI task force created by former Justice chief and current Senator de Lima, who is now detained on drug trafficking charges.


De Lima’s task force that launched the fact-finding probe on the PDAF scam during the Aquino administration only led to the plunder indictment of opposition personalities.

 

Aguirre said several former Cabinet officials close to former President Benigno Noynoy Aquino III would be among those to be investigated.

 

These officials are not yet off the hook, Aguirre stressed as he vowed that the new task force will rectify the “miscarriage of justice” in the earlier probe conducted by the previous administration.


“Just as it was in the previous investigation, the statements and evidence will be validated through records from relevant implementing agencies and the Commission on Audit,” Aguirre said.


“But this time, we can assure the public that there will be no selective justice - unlike what happened in the previous administration,” the Justice chief vowed.


Aguirre said a new probe into the pork barrel scam was necessary as a result of the “selective justice” applied during the earlier probe, where the investigation centered on only three opposition lawmakers, namely former senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., the last two still held at the PNP Detention Center in Camp Crame pending their trial.

 

No other senator had been charged with plunder but officials had hinted some senators could face plunder after the investigation.


While a handful of congressional allies of the previous administration were charged, they were charged merely for graft, which is a bailable offense.

 

Aguirre said the new task force will handle the fact-finding probe into the alleged anomalies in the unconstitutional Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), the unlawfully implemented and controversial budget program of the Aquino administration.


In the case of the DAP filed against Aquino and former budget chief Florencio “Butch” Abad, the Ombudsman, known to protect the former president and his officials, quickly absolved Aquino while merely giving Abad a slap in the wrist. 


The Ombudsman was even quoted by media as saying that Aquino is “corrupt free”even before cases of plunder and corruption against him were investigated.


Aguirre said the panel would also meet with Napoles’ lawyer Stephen David and anti-pork advocate Greco Belgica for gathering of evidence.


The new task force will kick off the probe with the affidavit and documentary evidence to be submitted by detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged pork barrel scam queen, Aguirre said.

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By CLAIRE MORALES TRUE and ALFRED GABOT

 

(Photo from Manila Bulletin)

 

PASAY CITY (via PhilAmPress) — Just as the Philippines was reeling from the terrorists’ siege of Marawi City in which more than 100 have been killed, a man, armed with high-powered weapons, set parts of the ritzy Resorts World Manila hotel casino complex infront of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) terminal 3 resulting to the suffocation to death of 37 guests, tourists and employees before he killed himself.

 

Among those killed were the wife of Rep. Aurelio Gonzales of Pampanga and the businessman-husband of former actress Azenith Briones who now plans to sue the Resorts World and some foreign guests who suffocated to death as they escaped the smoke inside the hotel-casino comfort rooms.

 

More than 70 others were also wounded as people panicked with the lapse of security and the failure of the Resorts World Manila officials to control the crowd while many claimed that the fire sprinklers did not work or were not enough for a big business establishment such as the hotel-casino and that there was no proper signages for the fire exits. Many also panicked due to alleged misinformation that there were many armed attackers.

 

The incident triggered a Congressional probe which opened on June 7 in the House of Representatives even as the government casino regulator, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., started its own probe and looking into the possible revocation of the license of Resorts World Manila even as the hotel-casino suspended its operations for at least two weeks.

On June 9, after being grilled at the Congress investigation, PAGCOR suspended the Provisional License granted to Travellers International Hotel Group to operate casinos and other gaming facilities under the business name of RWM, following the June 2 arson spree by a lone gunman that left 38 people dead.

 

The hotel casino resort, through RWM Chief Operating Officer Stephen Reilly, vowed it would do everything to “regain people’s trust after the tragic incident last week.”

 

In a statement, the state gaming regulator ordered RWM to “cease and desist all gaming operations while investigation on its liability regarding the June 2 incident is ongoing.”

 

The suspension will remain, PAGCOR said, “until RWM rectifies its serious security lapses and deficiencies – which caused not only the loss of lives and damaged properties – but also placed the Philippine gaming, tourism and hospitality industries in bad light.”

 

Later, the RWM announced it had engaged the service of noted international security experts in order to review and address the gaps that made it possible for lone gunman Jessie Carlos to enter the hotel and torch gaming tables and slot machines on the second floor, before killing himself following suspension of Lanting Security Agency guards of the hotel casino resort by the Philippine National Police.

 

PAGCOR said non-compliance with its cease-and-desist order shall invite other sanctions as may be warranted under existing laws.

 

The incident reached the White House initially as a possible terrorist act prompting US President Donald Trump, the US State Department and the US Embassy in Manila to expressed sympathy and condolences with the kin and friends of the victims. 

According to government records, Resorts World Manila, developed and operated by Travellers International Hotel Group Inc., is a joint venture of the Alliance Global Inc. – the holding firm of Filipino business tycoon Andrew Tan, one of the wealthiest Filipinos, and Genting Hong Kong Limited. According to disclosures on the Philippine Stock Exchange, Resorts World Manila's foreign market includes company members from the United States, Korea, Malaysia, and China. In 2016, the company raked in a net revenue of P25.09 billion, P23.65 billion of which was attributed to gaming operations.

 

Police investigators identified the gunman who set some gaming tables, rugs and other areas in the hotel-casino ablaze as Jessie Carlos, a former government employee who has been banned from the casino. Carlos was identified by his former wife and parents who said they were sorry for what Carlos had done.

 

Carlos stormed the Resorts World Manila last June 2 with his weapons and gasoline containers, fired his guns but was not immediately subdued by RSW security officers. There was no designated person to handle the security situation as Carlos took casino chips worth more than P100 million and went amuck, according to investigators led by Philippine National Police-Supervisory Office for Security and Investigation Agencies (PNP-SOSIA) head Chief Supt. Jose Mario Espino.

 

Thirty seven of those killed apparently died of smoke inhalation, with Carlos escaping to the fifth floor of the hotel where he forcibly opened a room and set himself on fire and shot himself.

 

Espino said this was the initial findings of their investigation which was convened to look into the liability of N.C. Lanting Security Specialist Agency, the firm which provided the security guards to RWM.

 

It was also found out that RWM has its own in-house security team tasked to guard the casino but these individuals are not covered by the PNP-SOSIA investigation.

 

Espino said the guards provided by N. C. Lanting Security Specialist Agency were tasked to secure fixed points in the parking area, RWM entrances and exits, with just one roving watchman for the adjoining mall area, and no provisions for a quick reaction team.

 

All these guards are operating alone during the time of the incident.

 

The PNP-SOSIA chief said the incident highlighted RWM's reliance on the police for possible emergency situations.

 

Espino added that a review indicated that RWM's security had no command-and-control during the incident which could give responding police officers a picture on what was happening.

 

"The Chief PNP (Director General Ronald 'Bato' Dela Rosa) was waiting (to know) what was happening but no one could tell him immediately. There was no ground commander,” he stressed.

 

Espino added that Dela Rosa was told that everybody was evacuated but later events showed that many people, almost all of the fatalities, were left behind.

 

He also reminded malls and hotels not to cut down on their security detail.

 

Espino said security guards should always "operate on a buddy system” or in pairs.

 

National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Director Oscar Albayalde said that the police is continuing its investigation on the incident.

 

Many of the victims including 22  employees were trapped in the comfort rooms of the casino area located at the second floor of Resorts World Manila. It turned out that they were only a few meters away from the fire exit which they could have used to escape but there was no one to assist them, thus they suffocated to death.

 

Those injured were brought to San Juan de Dios Hospital, Pasay General Hospital, Villamor Hospital and St. Luke's Medical Center.

 

PNP chief Dela Rosa said a security guard accidentally shot himself after panicking during the incident.

 

"'Yung isang gunshot wound na nadala sa hospital, 'yan 'yung security guard na nabaril niya sarili niya—accidental. Nabaril niya eh. Nag-panic na doon kanina," Dela Rosa said.

 

Resorts World Manila Chief Operating Officer Stephen Reilly assured assistance to all victims, promising at least P1 million to each of them and their families.

 

President Trump initially called the casino  incident a "terrorist attack" but officials later corrected it.

 

"I would like to begin by addressing the terrorist attack in Manila," Trump said at the start of his speech. "It is really very sad as to what's going on throughout the world with terror. Our thoughts and our prayers are with all of those affected," Trump said as he prepared to announce his plan to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.


Many of the dead suffocated in the chaos as guests and staff tried to flee choking smoke at the hotel casino complex.

 

"Even the security personnel panicked. Maybe because of the heavy firearm, they can't put up a fight so they prioritized life and safety," said Jeff Santos, a high roller at Resorts World Manila. "Definitely us patrons we did not expect that, everyone ran away."

 

Jeri Ann Santiago, who works in the emergency room at the San Juan de Dios hospital, said patients were suffering the effects of smoke inhalation and some had injuries such as fractures. None had gunshot wounds, she said.

 

Kimberly Molitas, PNP NCRPO spokeswoman, said P113 million ($2.27 million) worth of casino chips stolen during the raid had been recovered.

 

The Philippines has been on heightened alert amid a crisis in Marawi City have been battling Islamist rebels since May 23.

 

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law on Mindanao last week and has warned it could become a haven for supporters fleeing Iraq and Syria.

 

The U.S. embassy in Manila told Americans there to exercise caution and to review their personal security.

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Photo from Facebook | @rodyduterte

 

MOSCOW/MANILA (via PhilAmPress) — President Duterte declared martial law in entire Mindanao on  May 23 after fighting raged in Marawi City between government forces and terrorists from the Maute group which is linked to the Islamic State (IS) group in which a policeman and two soldiers were killed and many soldiers were reported to have been injured.


It was gathered that  the terrorists have reportedly taken over several establishments, including a hospital, a church and a college and held many persons, including a Catholic priest.

 

As of May 27, a total of 44 persons on the government and terrorists’ side have been killed, including a chief of police and two other policemen, several soldiers and more than 30 suspected Maute Group terrorists, during the skirmishes as the terrorists took over several government installations, including a hospital and the city jail and  a church held a priest and many civilians hostage.

 

It was reported that some Indonesians, Malaysians and Singaporeans were among the terrorists killed.

 

Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, commander of the Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom), said six soldiers were killed while seven were wounded during clashes with the terrorists on Friday, May 26.

 

The fresh government casualties are in addition to the seven soldiers and two policemen killed and 31 soldiers and two policemen wounded earlier reported by authorities.

 

Many civilians were also killed in the clashes even as many people evacuated to safer places outside Marawi City.

 

Thirty-one supposed members of the Maute group were killed since the start of the siege in Marawi City on Tuesday, May 23, according to Brig. Gen. Rolly Bautista, commander of 1st Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.

 

For the past years, Mindanao has been besieged with the IS-linked Maute group, the New People's Army, the Abu Sayyaf Group and secessionist rebels.

 

Mr. Duterte made the declaration from Moscow, where he was on a four-day official visit, according to Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella who said the declaration took effect at 10 p.m. on Tuesday, May 23. 

 

Duterte cut short his official visit in Moscow and flew back to Manila Thursday, May 26, while some members of his party like Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol and Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo stayed behind.

 

Piñol signed later a Memorandum of Understanding with the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Agriculture to bring about food security in the Philippines through cooperation and research in agriculture and fisheries, livestock breeding, processing, and transportation and storage of agriculture and fishery products and other agricultural products.

 

Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo, on the other hand, signed a Joint Action Program on Cooperation in the Field of Tourism 2017-2019 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Moscow, saying the signing of the agreement is a manifestation of the joint pursuit of Russia and the Philippines towards a wider range of cooperation. The Philippines targets to attract part of the three million Russian tourists who travel to Southeast Asia every year, she said.

 

Prior to boarding his plane back to Manila, Duterte  martial law in Mindanao will be no different from the martial lawperiod during the time of President Ferdinand Marcos, saying he will deal harshly with terrorists.

 

The President told Filipinos not to be scared, saying he is cutting his short his trip to Russia to deal with the terrorist attackin Marawi City.

 

"Mga kababayan, do not be too scared. I am going home. I am cutting my visit here to be with my countrymen and I will deal with the problem once I arrive," he said.

 

He also pointed out that he had vowed to deal harshly with terrorism even during the presidential campaign.

 

"Let me just tell everybody that I have declared martial law for Mindanao. How long? Well, if it will take a year to do it, we'll do it. If it's over within a month, I will be happy. Pero ang martial law is martial law ha. So kayong mga kababayan ko, you have experienced martial law it will not be any different from what the President Marcos did. I'll be harsh."

 

"I have to do it to preserve the Republic of the Philippines," Duterte stressed.

 

Abella said the declaration was good for 60 days.

 

"The President has called me and asked me to announce that as of 10 p.m. Manila time, he has already declared Martial Law for the entire island of Mindanao," he said in a press briefing in Moscow, Russia.

 

Abella said the President placed the entire Mindanao island under martial law to suppress terrorist groups from wreaking further havoc in Southern Philippines.


“In order to suppress lawless violence and rebellion and for public safety, it is necessary to declare Martial Law in the entire island of Mindanao, including Sulu, Jolo and Tawi-Tawi for a period of 60 days,”  Abella said in a statement released by Malacanang.

 

“The government is in full control of the situation and is fully aware that the Maute/ISIS 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,” Abella added.

 

Earlier, Malacañang said that foremost in President Duterte’s mind is the nation’s interest and asked for public calm and cooperation.

 

“Let us be clear that first and foremost, the President's priority is the nation's interest. He has full confidence in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police’s management of the situation. We ask that the residents take all precaution, cooperate with authorities, and stay calm,” Abella said.

 

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Mr. Duterte decided to cut short his visit as he is required by the Constitution to submit a report to Congress within 48 hours of the declaration of martial law.

 

Mr. Duterte’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin was set to be postponed but Mr. Putin returned to Moscow Tuesday evening in time and met Duterte.

 

The two leaders smiled and shook hands with each other upon meeting.

 

Duterte explained the reason for his abrupt departure, saying he had a problem with the ISIS and had to head home to attend to the urgent matter.

 

He offered friendship to Putin and assured the Russian President that the Philippines has gone beyond the ambit of western influence.

 

During the meeting, Duterte asked Putin for a softloan that would be used to purchase firearms because the arms deal with the United States was cancelled.

 

He also told the Russian leader that members of ISIS have occupied some provinces in the country.

 

Duterte also said he had to halt his visit to Moscow and return home as there was still fighting with ISIS's militants there.

 

Putin said he hoped the conflict in the Philippines would be resolved "with minimum losses". He also said there were the prospects for economic and military cooperation between Moscow and Manila.

 

During the meeting, Duterte asked Putin for a softloan that would be used to purchase firearms because the arms deal with the United States was cancelled as he informed the Russian leader that members of ISIS have occupied some areas in the country.

Duterte also said he had to halt his visit to Moscow and return home as there was still fighting with ISIS's militants there.

Putin said he hoped the conflict in the Philippines would be resolved "with minimum losses," adding there were the prospects for economic and military cooperation between Moscow and Manila.


Cayetano said the priority of Duterte is the safety of people in Mindanao.

"They understand that the presence of the President, of President Duterte is essential in the Philippines. But I will be staying behind. The agreements will be signed," he said.

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MANILA — Do you smoke and are visiting the Philippines soon?

 

Take note that President Rodrigo R. Duterte has signed an executive order (EO) that bans smoking in all public places, including public conveyances, throughout the Philippines.

 

The President signed EO No. 26 on May 16, days before the World Non-Tobacco Day celebration, but the order was only released to media on May 18.

 

As provided under EO 26, smoking is banned altogether in schools, including universities, and recreational facilities for minors throughout the country and sets strict guidelines on designated smoking areas (DSAs).

 

Areas where smoking is not allowed includes centers of youth activity such as playschools, preparatory schools, elementary schools, high schools, colleges and universities, youth hostels and recreational facilities for minors.

 

Also included are elevators and stairwells, locations where fire hazards are present, premises of public and private hospitals, medical, dental, optical clinics and food preparation areas

 

No designated smoking areas are allowed to be put up in those areas.

 

Even before he became president, Duterte had been an advocate to banning smoking in public spaces.

 

He first instituted the ban in Davao City when he was the mayor, a position he held for years prior to running for the Presidency.

 

DSAs are defined in the EO as an "an area of a building or conveyance where smoking may be allowed, which may be in an open space or separate area with proper ventilation."

 

The EO also specifies that a "non-smoking buffer zone" be established for DSAs not located in open spaces.

 

The buffer zone must be between the door of the DSA and the rest of the building.

 

There should be no part of the buffer zone that will allow air to escape to the smoke-free area except for a "single door with an automatic door closer."

 

To further achieve the government’s policy to guarantee the right of every citizen to breathe clean air, the EO stipulates that a building or conveyance can only have one DSA.

 

Minors are strictly prohibited from entering the DSA or its buffer zone.

 

Incidentally, EO 26 was signed on the occasion of the World Non Tobacco Day that will be celebrated on May 31.

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By ALFRED GABOT

 

 

IN MOSCOW. DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano joins President Rodrigo Duterte as he holds bilateral talks in Moscow with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

 

PASAY CITY (PhilAmPress)  Sen. Alan Peter Schramm Cayetano has taken over as secretary of foreign affairs following the whirlwind approval of his apppointment by the Commission on Appointments (CA).

 

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the CA foreign affairs committee,  said that Cayetano was confirmed by the CA by acclamation being a seating Senator and member of the CA. 

 

Cayetano, 47, a lawyer, was educated at Ateneo de Manila University and the University of the Philippines and was also a former congressman representing Taguig City. He is a son of the late Senator Renato Cayetano of San Carlos City, Pangasinan and Pateros, a topnotch lawyer, Assemblyman and presidential legal counsel during his time, and Sandra Schramm Cayetano, a German-American former school teacher from Michigan where his father took up his Master of Laws, Master of Public Administration and  Doctor of Laws.

 

Cayetano received the Department of Foreign Affairs’ flag from the Acting Secretary and Undersecretary for Policy Enrique A. Manalo at the Office of the Secretary Conference Room on May 19, 2017. 

 

Secretary Cayetano was warmly received by the members of the Philippine Foreign Service following his  visit to the DFA’s Office of Consular Affairs.

 

On May 22,  Cayetano addressed for the first time the members of the Philippine Foreign Service as the country’s top diplomat during the  flag ceremony at the DFA Building in Pasay City.

 

In his speech, Secretary Cayetano revealed his impressions of the Foreign Service, his plans for the Department, and his expectations from the DFA workforce.

 

“We are here in the Department of Foreign Affairs to build relationships. We are to be the bridge, and we are here to build a nation,” Secretary Cayetano said as he defined the DFA’s mission.

 

He recalled his previous engagements with various DFA employees when he visited several Philippine Foreign Service Posts as a Senator.

 

“All around the world, kilala ang DFA sa pagiging professional and I congratulate you for that. It has always been a pleasure to meet our DFA officers and employees abroad because they are the most professional, they’re the mostmalambing, they’re the most caring, and they will work for you in the evening, Saturday, Sunday, etc. And they will make sure that you are well taken care of.”

 

He also highlighted the role of the DFA as protector of Filipinos overseas, not just in taking good care of their welfare, but also that of their convenience and comfort.

 

The Secretary also reminded of the role of every DFA employee as the face of the public. “Tayo po ang mukha ng Pilipinas,” he said reminding the corps how crucial their role is in government and urged everyone to represent the country well.

 

The Secretary concluded his remark by reminding the DFA officers and staff to put the values and interests of the Filipino at heart in all of their endeavors at work and to help him accomplish the task the president has given him.

 

Secretary Cayetano, in a press briefing immediately after the flag ceremony, also tackled an array of issues on the Department’s consular services, Philippine relations, and others.

 

Cayetano declared that he plans an "objective-based" approach in resolving the territorial disputes of the Philippines with China and neighbors and defending the country's claims.


Cayetano also vowed to avoid "microphone diplomacy", which he described as the continual issuing of public statements instead of privately negotiating the issues with the parties. (Alfred Gabot/PhilAmPress)

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By ALFRED GABOT

 

 

US-PHL BALIKATAN EXERCISES. Officials of the Philippines and the United States opened the yearly Balikatan (Shoulder-to-Shoulder) military exercises early May. Shown at the opening ceremonies are (from left) Lt. Gen.l Oscar T. Lactao, U.S. Ambassador Sung Y. Kim, Secretary of National Defense Delfin N. Lorenzana, Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ariel Y. Abadilla, Armed Forces chief of staff General Eduardo M. Año, and Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson.

 

MANILA/WASHINGTON (PhilAmPress) — The United States condemned the terrorists in Marawi City as it expressed support to the Philippines' counter-terrorism efforts, according to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

 

In a statement issued in Washington on May 25, Spicer said: "The United States condemns the recent violence perpetrated by an ISIS-linked terrorist group in the southern Philippines."

 

"These cowardly terrorists killed Philippine law enforcement officials and endangered the lives of innocent citizens," he added.

 

"The United States will continue to provide support and assistance to Philippine counterterrorism efforts," Spicer said. 

 

"The United States is a proud ally of the Philippines, and we will continue to work with the Philippines to address shared threats to the peace and security of our countries," he added.

 

 U.S. Ambassador to Manila Kim Sung also expressed support the government in it fight against terrorism.

 

"As a proud ally, the U.S. will continue to provide support for PH counterterrorism efforts," Ambassador Kim said in a Twitter post.

 

The U.S. ambassador also expressed sympathies for families affected by the attack.

 

"Concerned about the continued violence in Marawi. My condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims," he said in a separate Twitter post.

 

Earlier, the US Embassy in a post on its website stated: "We are aware of the reports regarding martial law in Mindanao and are following the situation.  The Embassy offers sincere condolences to friends and family of the police officer and soldiers who lost their lives in Marawi in the name of democracy."

 

The U.S. Embassy, at the same time, cautioned U.S. citizens on the an ongoing conflict between terrorist groups and Philippine Security Forces in Marawi City.. 

 

The U.S. Embassy has temporarily suspended Mission personnel travel to Mindanao pending a better understanding of the threat environment, it said.

 

" While the U.S. Embassy has no information that the events in Marawi City represent a direct threat to U.S. citizens or U.S. interests in the Philippines, we encourage U.S. citizens to review personal security plans, avoid large crowds and gatherings, and remain vigilant at all times," the embassy added.

 

 "The U.S. Embassy wishes to remind U.S. citizens of the most recent Worldwide Caution, dated March 6, 2017, which indicates there is an ongoing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens and interests abroad, including the Philippines.  Extremists have targeted sporting events, theaters, markets, mass transportation systems–including airlines, and other public venues where large crowds gather. Crowded nightclubs, shopping malls, buses and popular restaurants have also been targets." the US Embassy warned.

 

"U.S. citizens should be mindful of the importance of taking preventative measures to ensure their safety and security while traveling and residing in the Philippines‎" the statement concluded. (Alfred Gabot/PhilAmPress)

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(Photo from Philippine Star)

 

MANILA (via PhilAmPress) — Filipino and American troops will launch a naval disaster drill off Casiguran, Aurora near the Benham Rise in the Pacific Ocean during this year’s joint Balikatan military exercises which start on May 8.

 

Officials said the joint military exercises, the 33rd between the two countries, would now focus on humanitarian response drills.

 

Dubbed as Civil-Military Activities from the Sea (CMA-S), the joint naval disaster maneuver will be conducted off the coastal areas of the country’s eastern seaboard.

 

This year’s Balikatan will involve units of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

 

“Our ships with the US and the PCG will navigate from Subic Bay and they will be passing by the waters off Zambales, Cagayan Valley on their way to Casiguran, Aurora for launching of the sea-based disaster response scenario,” Balikatan spokesman for the Philippines Maj. Frank Sayson said.

 

Sayson said the joint disaster naval exercise along the Pacific coastline from Subic is expected to start on May 7 and be completed with a week.

Culminating event for the CMA-S drills will be the landing of relief items and supplies in the coastal area of Casiguran on May 15.

 

An announcement from the US Embassy in Manila stated that Philippine and U.S. forces will kick off Exercise Balikatan 33-2017 through community engagement activities in Panay, Leyte, and Samar.  

 

U.S. and Filipino service members will work together to renovate five schools and conduct community medical engagements with local residents in the opening days of the 12-day military training exercise.  Preliminary work on community infrastructure projects began mid-April.

 

Balikatan 33-2017 incorporates high value training events designed to enhance the capabilities of both AFP and U.S. armed forces.  The training focuses on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in order to improve response effectiveness and speed in the event of natural disasters and other crises that endanger public health and safety.

 

This year’s exercise will have AFP and U.S. forces partnering to improve their counterterrorism capabilities in order to build safer communities and work towards the eradication of global terror networks.  During Balikatan, U.S. and Philippine forces will conduct operational and counterterrorism training exercises in diverse areas of expertise, including live fire advanced marksmanship, counter improvised explosive devices (IED), maritime interdiction, and amphibious raids.

 

In this year’s Balikatan, the Philippines and the United States will continue to collaborate with regional partner nations: forces from Australia and Japan will participate in all major training events, and the AFP has invited military forces from several other nations to be part of the International Observers Program.

 

“I cannot tell you yet how many assets will be committed by the participants but definitely, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will be fielding many for this activity,” Sayson said.

 

Casiguran is among the remotest towns in the eastern seaboard nearest to Benham Rise in the Pacific Ocean. The town is often in the path of the powerful storms blowing in from the Pacific.

 

A separate joint quake disaster response drill in an urban setting will also be undertaken by combined Filipino and American troops at the headquarters of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.

 

Foreign and local observers were invited to the event on May 12.

 

Sayson said the planners of this year’s Balikatan (Shoulder to Shoulder) agreed that both Filipino and US forces must harness not only their fighting skills but also their disaster response capabilities.

 

Sayson said the joint quake disaster response drill is most important to Filipino troops as the Philippines is prone to earthquakes, being situated in the Pacific Ring of Fire.

 

The AFP has committed several of its engineering units to join the quake disaster response drill. 

 

President Duterte has ordered this year’s Balikatan to focus more on humanitarian and disaster response activities instead of the usual war games.

 

Balikatan is scheduled for launching on May 8 and will end on May 16.President Rodrigo Duterte to proceed with an exploration of the Benham Rise next week.

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