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EDITORIALS & OPINIONS OF THE WEEK:
(Mini Reads followed by Full news commentary)

FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

EDITORIAL: CREDIBILITY


MAY 4 -"Ang aming mantra ay credible elections" -The Commission on Elections (Comelec) assured that it is committed to hold a credible May 2016 national and local elections. In five days, our people will exercise their sovereign right to choose their leaders. In a democracy like ours, the right to vote is one of the most important duties of citizens. When we say that our democracy is a “government of the people, for the people, and by the people,” we mean that any government must first get the consent of the people before it can exercise power on behalf of the people. That is the main purpose of elections. That is what democracy is about. For this reason, it is essential to ensure that our elections would reflect the will of the people. Elections must be free, fair, honest, meaningful, and most importantly credible. I cannot overstress the importance of credibility in our elections. The best way to understand this is probably to imagine the problems that will arise if and when our electoral exercises lose credibility. First of all, the people will lose confidence in the results of the voting process. We need to understand that many of our people actually take voting seriously. This is the reason why the issue of the Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail, or the VVPAT, is critical. People want to know that their votes will be counted, and counted correctly. Second, elections without credibility affect the legitimacy of the new government. If the people believes that some form of cheating occurred that robbed them of their votes, then the winning candidates will find it difficult to govern. Lastly, it will undermine our democracy. Our very system of government rests on the principle of the sovereign will of the people. An electoral process that disregards this principle is bound to fail. We can only look at our political history to see how turbulent that can be. While the task of ensuring credible elections lies with all of us, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is the leader in that effort. However, recent developments have made people worried about Comelec’s capability to ensure credible elections. Last March 27, the commission’s website was hacked twice and, despite efforts by its officials to downplay the security breach, the hackers uploaded a searchable website containing sensitive data of over 70 million voters. The website contained millions of registered voters’ full names, birthdates, fingerprint information, parents’ full names, complete addresses of residence, passport numbers, and more. This has been dubbed the biggest leak of personal data in the country’s history. People are worried that the hacking proves that the automated elections can also be hacked. Officials have denied this and attested to the security of the vote-counting machines (VCMs). But we need to remember that credibility is affected by public perception. I hope the Comelec can, in the final days before the elections, restore the confidence of people in the automated election process. Just last week, Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista announced that the earlier plan to use malls as voting precincts will be scrapped. This came as a surprise because of the decision’s proximity to the scheduled elections. Why are we changing plans only now? READ MORE...

ALSO: B& Florangel Rosario Braid - A vote for the future


MAY 3 -F.R. Braid As I had related in past pieces, I have been disturbed by the indifference shown by some friends and other people towards the coming election. The usual answer was, “Nothing is going to happen anyway, so why bother?” But during these past few weeks, I noted some discernible changes such as a more challenged and upbeat mood which I hope would translate into a larger voter turnout. The other is what those of us who believe that the best alternative is Mar Roxas, are now seeing – a shift from among those indifferent or pro-Duterte to the Ro-Ro tandem. Is this perhaps a realization that silence is not the answer to potential threats facing the country such as breakdown of democratic institutions and the taking away of our freedoms, a possible scenario in a Duterte presidency? Senator Miriam’s recent statement – that Mar Roxas is more than qualified in terms of honesty, competence, and efficiency – sounds like an indirect endorsement. This, from a rival and one who is known to be niggardly when it comes to extending praise. She showed similar magnanimity during the debate when she asked Mar about the three critical criteria for the presidency – academic and professional achievements and moral character – nodding her head, which signifies agreement. And, as we all know, these are areas where Mar excels over the others. Those of us who believe that the only sustainable future is one that is built on authentic democracy, not the kind of autocracy, as that offered by a Duterte presidency, should truly reflect on the options ahead of us. True, the prospect of having a “strongman” who can quickly fix our broken institutions and structures seems quite appealing. But history has shown how countries had suffered from demagogues and dictators. Perhaps a Duterte and a Binay can fix some of our ills – traffic, drugs, and poverty through dole-outs for a while. But since they do not have a clear vision of how their reforms can be ably sustained – through financing, infrastructure, and policies – these changes are bound to fail after a year or two. Many of the reforms envisioned by the other presidentiables are already in place but they need some time before we can feel their full impact. Changing course in midstream would be disastrous. Thus, Mar pleads for patience as he asks the people to join them in their good fight for decency and honesty. What a Roxas-Robredo administration offers is not a miracle, not quick solutions like what some of the others offer. Mar says he cannot promise heaven but he can create jobs. And when you look at Mar and Leni, you know deep down in your hearts that they represent the best in what we want to see in our leaders – integrity, sincerity, and a deep desire to serve our country. It is these two who truly understand the complexity of the challenges ahead of us. READ MORE...

ALSO: EDITORIAL - Chief Justice Renato C. Corona


MAY 3 -CJ CORONA Former Chief Justice Renato C. Corona was preparing to clear his name and reclaim his seat in the Supreme Court when he succumbed to cardiac arrest early Friday morning, April 29. He was the only Chief Justice ever to be impeached. With his untimely death, his plan to vindicate himself also comes to an end. Justice Corona was appointed chief justice by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on May 12, 2010, after the retirement of Chief Justice Renato Puno. A suit was brought before the Supreme Court as the Constitution bans presidential appointments two months before the election up to the end of her term. But the Supreme Court ruled that the ban does not cover the judiciary. President Aquino was elected in that election and, instead of following the tradition of being sworn in by the chief justice, he chose to be sworn in on June 30, 2010, by Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, who had dissented in the Supreme Court ruling. Months later, in December, 2011, the House of Representatives approved an impeachment complaint with eight articles – later reduced to three — against Corona.. The Senate on May 29, 2012, voted for conviction on the first article – that Corona failed to disclose to the public his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Networth (SALN), in Betrayal of Public Trust and/or Culpable Violation of the Constitution. The Senate then decided not to pursue voting on the two other articles of impeachment. It was charged by opposition quarters at the time that funds from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) figured in the impeachment case, but that has never been established. Chief Justice Corona was preparing to do this as soon as the next administration assumed office, when he died. It is difficult to say how successful he would have been if he lived to carry out his plan. It would have been one of the livelier issues that some opposition quarters were threatening to raise against some administration figures. The case must now be set aside. For now, the nation can only honor him on his death. The Supreme Court lowered its flag to half-mast and several officials cited his record of service to the nation, notably in legal education and upholding the rule of law. Malacañang has extended its condolences to the Corona family. We join in paying him tribute. THE FULL EDITORIAL.

ALSO: EDITORIAL - Gov’t again vows no let-up in drive on Abu Sayyaf


MAY 5 -A week after the beheading of a Canadian kidnap victim by the Abu Sayyaf in Mindanao for alleged failure to pay ransom, the Abu Sayyaf was in the news again. It released 10 Indonesian seamen it had seized aboard a tugboat off Sabah last March 26. The Jolo police director said he did not know if ransom had been paid for the Indonesians, but said the Abu Sayyaf had earlier demanded P50 million for the sailors. President Aquino had vowed there would be no let up in the government pursuit of the Abu Sayyaf after the beheading of Canadian John Ridsdel. He vowed to devote all his energy to crush the group before he steps down from office on June 30. image: http://www.mb.com.ph/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Editorial3-198x300.jpg Judging from the record, however, it does not look like the government is close to crushing the Abu Sayyaf which has been operating since the 1970s in the mountains of Sulu and in Basilan and other nearby islands. In the 1990s, Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law reportedly funnelled money to the Abu Sayyaf which had split from the Moro National Liberation Front to continue fighting for increased autonomy for Muslims in the South. In 1994, the Abu Sayyaf was blamed by the Philippine Army for bombings in Zamboanga City that killed 71. The next year, it raided Ipil, Sulu, killing 53. After its leader was killed in 1998, the militant group reportedly began kidnapping rich foreigners for ransom money to fund its operations. Around 2003, it appeared to have renewed its ideological fervor and took responsibility for the 2004 bombing of a ferry in Manila Bay that killed 116 people. READ MORE...

ALSO: By Jim Gomez - After hostage beheading, is Philippines facing IS threat?


MAY 5 -JIM GOMEZ -Associated Press journalist  Months before Abu Sayyaf militants beheaded retired Canadian mining executive John Ridsdel in the tropical jungles of the southern Philippines, they showed him pleading for life in a video with three other hostages that demanded a record-high ransom. The scene was all too familiar in a Southeast Asian nation that has struggled with ransom kidnappings by the Islamic militants for years, except for two things. In the video that appeared in November, two black flags with Islamic State group symbols were displayed by the heavily armed Abu Sayyaf fighters in the backdrop of lush foliage. Then after a deadline for ransom lapsed on Monday, they killed the 68-year-old Ridsdel — instead of waiting patiently for the money as the mostly impoverished rural fighters have done in the past. Shocked by the outcome, many in the largest Roman Catholic nation in Asia are asking if this is same band of militants the government has long dismissed as ransom-seeking bandits. Or, has the Philippines fallen into a growing list of countries that are now grappling with the spread of the Islamic State group from Syria and Iraq? The Philippine government has insisted the IS still has no presence in the country’s south, homeland of minority Muslims who rose up to seek a separate state in the early 1970s. In his first remarks following Ridsdel’s killing, President Benigno Aquino III, who is left with two more months in office, ran a history of the Abu Sayyaf’s brutal attacks, describing it as a group of outlaws and vowing “to devote all my energies toward ensuring that, at the very least, this will be a very seriously degraded problem.’’ “Even as it poses as a group of Islamic freedom fighters, the Abu Sayyaf has behaved as criminals focused on enriching themselves by taking hostages for ransom,’’ he said, describing them as opportunists who want to “align themselves with ISIS to gain access to the funds and resources of ISIS.’’  Terrorism experts, however, believe that a key Abu Sayyaf faction and at least two other small armed groups have gone beyond pledging allegiance to the Middle East-based jihadis on video and have struck a new alliance under the IS flag. Some foreign militants from Malaysia, Indonesia and the Middle East helped forge the union under an overall leader, Isnilon Hapilon, a veteran Filipino militant who was among those who founded the Abu Sayyaf on southern Basilan Island in early 1990s, said Rodolfo Mendoza, a retired police general who helped lead counterterrorism efforts. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

EDITORIAL: Credibility


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MANILA, MAY 9, 2016 (BULLETIN) by Senator Manny Villar May 3, 2016 - In five days, our people will exercise their sovereign right to choose their leaders. In a democracy like ours, the right to vote is one of the most important duties of citizens.

When we say that our democracy is a “government of the people, for the people, and by the people,” we mean that any government must first get the consent of the people before it can exercise power on behalf of the people. That is the main purpose of elections. That is what democracy is about.

For this reason, it is essential to ensure that our elections would reflect the will of the people. Elections must be free, fair, honest, meaningful, and most importantly credible.

I cannot overstress the importance of credibility in our elections. The best way to understand this is probably to imagine the problems that will arise if and when our electoral exercises lose credibility.

First of all, the people will lose confidence in the results of the voting process. We need to understand that many of our people actually take voting seriously. This is the reason why the issue of the Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail, or the VVPAT, is critical. People want to know that their votes will be counted, and counted correctly.

Second, elections without credibility affect the legitimacy of the new government. If the people believes that some form of cheating occurred that robbed them of their votes, then the winning candidates will find it difficult to govern.

Lastly, it will undermine our democracy. Our very system of government rests on the principle of the sovereign will of the people. An electoral process that disregards this principle is bound to fail. We can only look at our political history to see how turbulent that can be.

While the task of ensuring credible elections lies with all of us, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is the leader in that effort. However, recent developments have made people worried about Comelec’s capability to ensure credible elections.

Last March 27, the commission’s website was hacked twice and, despite efforts by its officials to downplay the security breach, the hackers uploaded a searchable website containing sensitive data of over 70 million voters.

The website contained millions of registered voters’ full names, birthdates, fingerprint information, parents’ full names, complete addresses of residence, passport numbers, and more.

This has been dubbed the biggest leak of personal data in the country’s history. People are worried that the hacking proves that the automated elections can also be hacked. Officials have denied this and attested to the security of the vote-counting machines (VCMs).

But we need to remember that credibility is affected by public perception. I hope the Comelec can, in the final days before the elections, restore the confidence of people in the automated election process.

Just last week, Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista announced that the earlier plan to use malls as voting precincts will be scrapped. This came as a surprise because of the decision’s proximity to the scheduled elections. Why are we changing plans only now?

READ MORE...

Add to these the setbacks of the Comelec in the Supreme Court which ruled against it in a couple of important cases. There is also controversy on the decision of the Comelec to allow replacement ballots which some critics believe will create confusion at the polls.

As early as two weeks ago, many unverified reports of voting irregularities were sent by overseas Filipino workers. Some claim their receipt did not reflect who they actually voted for. Can you imagine the chaos on May 9 when more than 50 million voters are expected to troop to the polling precincts?

I have no reason to doubt the probity and capability of the commissioners of the Comelec. I believe that they have the best interest of the nation at heart.

In fact, I think they did a very good job organizing the presidential and vice-presidential debates to help the public gather information for an enlightened decision on who to vote for on May 9. Congratulations, too, to the commissioners of the Comelec for improving the transparency of the electoral process. Part of the reason why there have been a lot of questions is the fact that the stakeholders know what is going on inside the commission.

I hope that the trust of the public will not wane. As I wrote before, credibility is as much about public perception as it is about the truth.

The Comelec needs to make sure that the process is credible. And that credibility hinges on the actual and perceived integrity of the electoral process. If Filipino voters believe the electoral process is defective and dishonest, they may not accept the results.

This is especially crucial given the fact that the presidential race is neck and neck. If the electoral contest among the five contenders is very tight then the results will surely be scrutinized.

Let us all support the Comelec and the other groups who are helping to ensure the success of our electoral process. While the competition between opposing candidates often takes center stage during electoral campaigns, we need to remind ourselves that elections also affirm what is common among us—that we are a democracy and that we will respect the voice of the people.


A vote for the future by Florangel Rosario Braid May 3, 2016 (updated) Share2 Tweet0 Share0 Email1 Share7


F.R. Braid

As I had related in past pieces, I have been disturbed by the indifference shown by some friends and other people towards the coming election. The usual answer was, “Nothing is going to happen anyway, so why bother?”

But during these past few weeks, I noted some discernible changes such as a more challenged and upbeat mood which I hope would translate into a larger voter turnout. The other is what those of us who believe that the best alternative is Mar Roxas, are now seeing – a shift from among those indifferent or pro-Duterte to the Ro-Ro tandem. Is this perhaps a realization that silence is not the answer to potential threats facing the country such as breakdown of democratic institutions and the taking away of our freedoms, a possible scenario in a Duterte presidency?

Senator Miriam’s recent statement – that Mar Roxas is more than qualified in terms of honesty, competence, and efficiency – sounds like an indirect endorsement. This, from a rival and one who is known to be niggardly when it comes to extending praise. She showed similar magnanimity during the debate when she asked Mar about the three critical criteria for the presidency – academic and professional achievements and moral character – nodding her head, which signifies agreement. And, as we all know, these are areas where Mar excels over the others.

Those of us who believe that the only sustainable future is one that is built on authentic democracy, not the kind of autocracy, as that offered by a Duterte presidency, should truly reflect on the options ahead of us. True, the prospect of having a “strongman” who can quickly fix our broken institutions and structures seems quite appealing. But history has shown how countries had suffered from demagogues and dictators. Perhaps a Duterte and a Binay can fix some of our ills – traffic, drugs, and poverty through dole-outs for a while. But since they do not have a clear vision of how their reforms can be ably sustained – through financing, infrastructure, and policies – these changes are bound to fail after a year or two.

Many of the reforms envisioned by the other presidentiables are already in place but they need some time before we can feel their full impact. Changing course in midstream would be disastrous. Thus, Mar pleads for patience as he asks the people to join them in their good fight for decency and honesty.

What a Roxas-Robredo administration offers is not a miracle, not quick solutions like what some of the others offer. Mar says he cannot promise heaven but he can create jobs. And when you look at Mar and Leni, you know deep down in your hearts that they represent the best in what we want to see in our leaders – integrity, sincerity, and a deep desire to serve our country. It is these two who truly understand the complexity of the challenges ahead of us.

READ MORE...

Global trends, according to scholars who are examining megatrends, show that in the next few years, the world will be confronted with many gamechangers which which would require a leadership and a citizenry that is equipped to respond to these complexities. We are confident that both Mar and Leni, because of track record, training, mindsets, and character, are the best perhaps to meet these challenges.

In the years to come, our country, like most developing countries would be vulnerable to these threats. Some of them are happening now – the claim to the West Philippine Sea, our entry into the ASEAN economy, the rising middle class and their clamor for empowerment, new technologies, pandemics, climate change, to name a few. We will need to respond to external crises in the region and the Middle East, and to rising inequalities.

It is predicted that in the next years, governance will be shared between government and non-state partners such as citizen coalitions, multinational businesses, academic institutions. Thus, any president will have to be prepared in leading a “hybrid coalition of government and non-government actors. Autocrats and dictators will find it difficult to operate within this scenario.

Both Mar and Leni, motivated by love of country, are prepared to take up this supreme sacrifice. They are willing to leave their comfort zones to take up the fight for a vision of the just, sustainable, and compassionate society. The good news is that Mar are not only inching their way up but galloping away. We hope this would be sustained till E-Day.

The D’Stafford Survey which was conducted April 25-29 with 4,500 respondents, all registered voters, showed Mar and Leni taking the lead with these results:

Mar, 27.8%; Duterte, 25.4%; Binay, 16.6%; Santiago, 2.7%

Leni , 34%; Marcos, 28%; Escudero, 18%; Cayetano, 17%; Trillanes, 2%; Honasan, 1% .


Chief Justice Renato C. Corona May 3, 2016 Share0 Tweet0 Share0 Email0 Share0


Former CJ CORONA

Former Chief Justice Renato C. Corona was preparing to clear his name and reclaim his seat in the Supreme Court when he succumbed to cardiac arrest early Friday morning, April 29. He was the only Chief Justice ever to be impeached. With his untimely death, his plan to vindicate himself also comes to an end.

Justice Corona was appointed chief justice by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on May 12, 2010, after the retirement of Chief Justice Renato Puno. A suit was brought before the Supreme Court as the Constitution bans presidential appointments two months before the election up to the end of her term. But the Supreme Court ruled that the ban does not cover the judiciary.

President Aquino was elected in that election and, instead of following the tradition of being sworn in by the chief justice, he chose to be sworn in on June 30, 2010, by Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, who had dissented in the Supreme Court ruling. Months later, in December, 2011, the House of Representatives approved an impeachment complaint with eight articles – later reduced to three — against Corona.. The Senate on May 29, 2012, voted for conviction on the first article – that Corona failed to disclose to the public his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Networth (SALN), in Betrayal of Public Trust and/or Culpable Violation of the Constitution. The Senate then decided not to pursue voting on the two other articles of impeachment.

It was charged by opposition quarters at the time that funds from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) figured in the impeachment case, but that has never been established. Chief Justice Corona was preparing to do this as soon as the next administration assumed office, when he died.

It is difficult to say how successful he would have been if he lived to carry out his plan. It would have been one of the livelier issues that some opposition quarters were threatening to raise against some administration figures. The case must now be set aside.

For now, the nation can only honor him on his death. The Supreme Court lowered its flag to half-mast and several officials cited his record of service to the nation, notably in legal education and upholding the rule of law. Malacañang has extended its condolences to the Corona family. We join in paying him tribute.


Gov’t again vows no let-up in drive on Abu Sayyaf May 5, 2016 (updated) Share0 Tweet0 Share0 Email0 Share2

EDITORIAL - A week after the beheading of a Canadian kidnap victim by the Abu Sayyaf in Mindanao for alleged failure to pay ransom, the Abu Sayyaf was in the news again. It released 10 Indonesian seamen it had seized aboard a tugboat off Sabah last March 26. The Jolo police director said he did not know if ransom had been paid for the Indonesians, but said the Abu Sayyaf had earlier demanded P50 million for the sailors.

President Aquino had vowed there would be no let up in the government pursuit of the Abu Sayyaf after the beheading of Canadian John Ridsdel. He vowed to devote all his energy to crush the group before he steps down from office on June 30. image: http://www.mb.com.ph/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Editorial3-198x300.jpg

Judging from the record, however, it does not look like the government is close to crushing the Abu Sayyaf which has been operating since the 1970s in the mountains of Sulu and in Basilan and other nearby islands. In the 1990s, Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law reportedly funnelled money to the Abu Sayyaf which had split from the Moro National Liberation Front to continue fighting for increased autonomy for Muslims in the South.

In 1994, the Abu Sayyaf was blamed by the Philippine Army for bombings in Zamboanga City that killed 71. The next year, it raided Ipil, Sulu, killing 53. After its leader was killed in 1998, the militant group reportedly began kidnapping rich foreigners for ransom money to fund its operations. Around 2003, it appeared to have renewed its ideological fervor and took responsibility for the 2004 bombing of a ferry in Manila Bay that killed 116 people.

READ MORE...

In 2006, the military launched a major offensive and three high-ranking leaders were killed. Running low on funds, the militant group is believed to have turned once again to kidnapping for ransom. Last September, 2015, the Abu Sayyaf kidnapped Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, Norwegian Khartan Sekkingstad, and Filipina Marites Flor from a resort on Samal island in Davao Gulf. It beheaded Ridsdel seven months later.

Aside from the three remaining Samal hostages, the Abu Sayyaf reportedly holds today a Dutch national, four Malaysians, a Chinese national, and six Filipinos. Foreign ministers of the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia are due to meet in Jakarta this week to seek ways to secure key shipping routes between the three countries. As for the kidnap victims, President Aquino has declared that the Abu Sayyaf has caused trouble in the country long enough and must now face the full force of the law.

It has been over four decades since Philippine military forces – at one time with the help of American Special Forces – sought to stop the Abu Sayyaf. They have not had much success, as seen in the continued reports of kidnappings, but we continue to hope that new government efforts, perhaps in coordination with our neighboring countries, will find the solution that will end the kidnappings, beheadings, and other atrocities.


After hostage beheading, is Philippines facing IS threat? by AP May 5, 2016 (updated) Share1 Tweet0 Share0 Email0 Share4 By Jim Gomez


JIM GOMEZ -Associated Press journalist

Manila, Philippines — Months before Abu Sayyaf militants beheaded retired Canadian mining executive John Ridsdel in the tropical jungles of the southern Philippines, they showed him pleading for life in a video with three other hostages that demanded a record-high ransom.

The scene was all too familiar in a Southeast Asian nation that has struggled with ransom kidnappings by the Islamic militants for years, except for two things.

In the video that appeared in November, two black flags with Islamic State group symbols were displayed by the heavily armed Abu Sayyaf fighters in the backdrop of lush foliage. Then after a deadline for ransom lapsed on Monday, they killed the 68-year-old Ridsdel — instead of waiting patiently for the money as the mostly impoverished rural fighters have done in the past.

Shocked by the outcome, many in the largest Roman Catholic nation in Asia are asking if this is same band of militants the government has long dismissed as ransom-seeking bandits. Or, has the Philippines fallen into a growing list of countries that are now grappling with the spread of the Islamic State group from Syria and Iraq?

The Philippine government has insisted the IS still has no presence in the country’s south, homeland of minority Muslims who rose up to seek a separate state in the early 1970s.

In his first remarks following Ridsdel’s killing, President Benigno Aquino III, who is left with two more months in office, ran a history of the Abu Sayyaf’s brutal attacks, describing it as a group of outlaws and vowing “to devote all my energies toward ensuring that, at the very least, this will be a very seriously degraded problem.’’

“Even as it poses as a group of Islamic freedom fighters, the Abu Sayyaf has behaved as criminals focused on enriching themselves by taking hostages for ransom,’’ he said, describing them as opportunists who want to “align themselves with ISIS to gain access to the funds and resources of ISIS.’’

Terrorism experts, however, believe that a key Abu Sayyaf faction and at least two other small armed groups have gone beyond pledging allegiance to the Middle East-based jihadis on video and have struck a new alliance under the IS flag.


Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) Abu Sayyaf Group

Some foreign militants from Malaysia, Indonesia and the Middle East helped forge the union under an overall leader, Isnilon Hapilon, a veteran Filipino militant who was among those who founded the Abu Sayyaf on southern Basilan Island in early 1990s, said Rodolfo Mendoza, a retired police general who helped lead counterterrorism efforts.

READ MORE...

It’s not yet clear if the foreign militants, three of whom were killed in military offensives last year and this year, were IS fighters or sympathizers who wanted to recruit Filipinos into the IS fold, according to the Philippine military.

In November, Abu Sayyaf gunmen beheaded a Malaysian hostage despite ongoing ransom negotiations. It happened while Manila was hosting an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit attended by world leaders, including President Barack Obama and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Another armed group, which has brandished the IS group’s black flag in southern Butig town but is not yet known to have joined Hapilon’s alliance, recently posted a picture online of two kidnapped villagers in orange garb before they were beheaded as suspected military spies. It’s the first known instance local militants dressed their captives in orange, as IS extremists do.

An unusual surge in kidnappings, including daring attacks on three tugboats in and around the Sulu Sea that captured 18 Indonesian and Malaysian crewmen starting last month, along with recent beheadings, may be a way by the emerging bloc of militants to dramatize their capability and brutality and convince the IS group to fully recognize them as an affiliate entitled to funds and training support, Mendoza told the Associated Press.

Earlier this month, an Abu Sayyaf ambush in Basilan killed 18 soldiers in the military’s largest single-day combat loss so far this year.

“They’re now able to project internationally that they deserve the serious recognition of mother ISIS,’’ Mendoza said. “The kidnappings that they do shouldn’t only be seen as plain banditry.’’


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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