Tag Archive: Lanao del Sur


Authorities in Northern Mindanao have been alerted for a possible “spillover” of clashes between government troops and a local terrorist group in neighboring Lanao del Sur, police said said Saturday.

“The command, which is already on ‘full alert’ status, has intensified its intelligence build-up and checkpoint operations in its boundaries to contain and prevent a spillover,” said Supt. Surki Sereñas, Northern Mindanao regional police spokesman.

Members of the 10th Regional Public Safety Battalion have also been sent to augment provincial and city police units that share geographical boundaries with Lanao del Sur “in case of eventualities,” Sereñas said in a statement.

Lanao del Norte and its capital, Iligan City, share a vast boundary with Lanao del Sur.

Police units there are also “constantly” coordinating with police and military counterparts in the affected areas, Sereñas said.

Clashes in Lanao del Sur’s Butig town erupted last February 20 after about 80 to 100 followers of brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute attacked a military detachment there.

As of Saturday, troops have recovered five bodies of the Mautes’ followers, three M16 rifles, a sniper rifle, and two rocket-propelled grenades, said Colonel Roseller Murillo, commander of the Army’s 103rd Brigade.

Earlier, the military said intelligence reports indicate that at least 42 terror suspects, including Omar Maute, had been killed in the week-long offensive.

Three soldiers also died in the clashes while 11 more were injured.

Security forces have been pounding the hinterlands of Butig since Feb. 20 with OV-10 bomber planes, MG-520 attack helicopters, and Howitzer cannons, prompting more than 20,000 people living nearby to evacuate.

No clash occurred on Saturday, but soldiers are still pursuing the Mautes’ remaining followers, Murillo said.

The Maute brothers’ group has been proclaiming itself as a branch of the Middle East-based Islamic State of Iraq and Syria but authorities dismissed these claims, saying the local gunmen were only joining the ISIS bandwagon.

The group is “allied” to a certain Ustadz Sanusi, an Indonesian conduit of the Jemaah Islamiyah who was killed in a raid in Marawi City in November 2012, Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said in a recent interview. (John Roson)

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Government forces seized the lair of a local terrorist group in Butig, Lanao del Sur, following a week-long offensive that left as much as 45 people dead and 20,000 displaced, authorities said Friday.

Troops took the “stronghold” of Abdullah Maute and his recently deceased brother Omar before Thursday evening, said Maj. Filemon Tan, Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command spokesman.

“Sadly, three soldiers were killed and 11 were wounded,” Tan said in a text message to reporters.

Intelligence reports on Friday indicated that 42 of the terrorists, including Omar Maute, had been killed, he said.

Soldiers are scouring the group’s lair and have so far found two M16 rifles, a homemade caliber-.50 rifle, and two rocket-propelled grenades, Tan said.

Operations are still underway in the area, though air strikes and artillery fires were halted to give way to ground troops.

“Tao-tao muna at mga tangke ang pumapasok, naka-standby ang mga attack helicopter at kanyon kung kailanganin,” Tan said.

Security forces have been pounding the hinterlands of Butig since last Saturday (Feb.20) with OV-10 bomber planes, MG-520 attack helicopters, and Howitzer cannons, prompting thousands of people living nearby to evacuate homes.

20,000 displaced, more still fleeing

A total of 1,207 families are displaced within Butig while 1,328 fled to the adjacent towns of Masiu and Lumbayanague, and 2,446 more evacuated as far as Buadiposo-Buntong, Ditsaan Ramain, up to the provincial capital Marawi City, according to figures released by the provincial government.

The displaced families are made up of more than 20,000 individuals from five barangays, according to another count by the Office of Civil Defense-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

“Continuous pa rin [ang evacuation], kasi marami ring naipit doon, di makalabas. Naglalakad na nga ‘yung iba palabas kasi di naman basta-basta masundo dahil continuous ang bakbakan,” said Saripada Pacasum, assistant head of the Lanao del Sur Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office.

“May nadaanan nga kami kahapon (Thursday), ‘yung sasakyan nila binuksan na ‘yung bubong, nilagyan na ng gamit para magkasya lang sila. Kawawa. Makikita na sila (evacuees) sa kalsada na paalis,” he said.

Relief goods short

While those who are fleeing still face woes along the road, some families who have already evacuated are facing a shortage in relief goods.
Pacasum admitted that the sheer number of evacuees has become a concern for relief operations, so the provincial government asked the ARMM regional government for assistance.

As of Friday morning, a total 2,507 familes have been given relief goods and authorities are still working to distribute to 2,474 more.

“Kulang pa, kasi plus ito pa ngang nadadagdag na evacuees, so tuloy pa rin ang repacking,” Pacasum said.

Governor Mamintal Adiong Jr. requested support and the ARMM government’s Humanitarian Emergency Action and Response Team is expected to deliver more goods Friday, he said.

Not ISIS

The Maute brothers’ group of about 80 to 100 men attacked an Army detachment last Saturday, forcing the offensive, Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said in a recent interview.

The group has been proclaiming itself as a branch of the Middle East-based Islamic State of Iraq and Syria but authorities dismissed these claims, saying there is no real link between the two and the local gunmen were only joining the ISIS bandwagon.

It is “allied” to a certain Ustadz Sanusi, an Indonesian conduit of the Jemaah Islamiyah who was killed in a raid in Marawi City in November 2012, Padilla said. (John Roson)

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Thousands flee Lanao del Sur clashes

More than 2,000 people have fled Butig town in Lanao del Sur to avoid getting caught in the middle of clashes between government troops and a “local terrorist group,” a disaster official said.

A total of 2,067 evacuees from Butig were recorded in the provincial capital, Marawi City, so far and more are reportedly coming, said Saripada Pacasum, assistant head of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office.

A “bigger number” of evacuees is also being reported in Masiu, adjacent to Butig, but authorities are still checking the figures, Pacasum said by phone.

Personnel of the PDRRMO and its head, retired military colonel Tatar Boriongan, have gone to Masiu to check on the number and distribute relief goods, he said.

The provincial government has convened a crisis committee meeting and is set to announce the figures Tuesday afternoon or evening, Pacasum said.

Residents evacuated Butig amid clashes that erupted on Saturday, he said.

Those who fled to Marawi, which is a two-hour land travel away, commuted and hitched rides on some passing vehicles.

“Iba-iba ang kuwento kung paano sila nakarating dito, may mga namasahe, meron ding mga sumakay sa vehicles na nag-offer ng ride para lang makaalis sila doon, kasi kababayan naman,” Pacasum said.

“Binobombahan kasi ng helicopters at saka ng artillery ng military ‘yung kalaban, so umalis sila (residents) para hindi maipit,” he said.

Initial field reports indicate that eight barangays of Butig are affected by the fighting.

Members of non-government relief organizations, including the Red Cross, have asked that they be allowed to visit the affected areas, and are still waiting for a go signal from the military, Pacasum said.

“Kinordon kasi ng military so ngayon wala pa talagang ng maka-penetrate sa area,” he said.

“Saturday pa nagsimula ‘yung bakbakan pero before pa, tina-try na hindi mangyari ‘yan. Kaya lang talagang matitigas itong grupo na ito ng local terrorists,” Pacasum said.

Army outpost attacked

Brigadier General Restituto Padilla, Armed Forces spokesman, told reporters in Manila that fighting erupted late Saturday when the group of the “Maute brothers” attacked the Army 51st Infantry Battalion’s detachment in Brgy. Bayabao, Butig.

The group of about 80 to 100 fighters is “allied” to a foreign conduit of the regional terror network Jemaah Islamiyah who was “neutralized” in 2012, Padilla said.

Two soldiers were killed and six were wounded, while unvalidated reports indicate that 20 of Maute’s men died, he said.

Troops operating on the ground were supported by Air Force OV-10 planes that conducted bomb runs on known enemy positions and MG-520 helicopters that provided close air support for maneuvering units, Padilla said.

“The group of the Maute brothers was held at bay, cordoned off by our troops, and are holding their position as of press time,” he said.

Pacasum, citing information from the military, said the “terrorists” are not members of affiliates of the Middle East-based Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“Local terrorists lang, hindi totoo ‘yung sinasabi ng iba na ISIS. Walang ISIS dito. Naga-ISIS-ISIS lang ang mga ‘yan,” he said.

Convoy ambushed

Colonel Noel Detoyato, Armed Forces public affairs chief, said another fighting erupted between soldiers and a “local terrorist organization” around 10:45 a.m. Tuesday.

The fighting occurred in Brgy. Pantara-Bato, Tugaya, also in Lanao del Sur, when an undetermined number of armed men ambushed a military convoy, said Major Filemon Tan, AFP Western Mindanao Command spokesman.

Tugaya is on the other side of Lake Lanao, facing Masiu and Butig.

The convoy was transporting an armored personnel carrier to Brgy. Alog in Lumbatan town when it was attacked, Tan said.

One soldier was killed in the fighting, which lasted for about 45 minutes, he said.

Two MG-520 helicopters and a platoon of soldiers with two armored vehicles were sent to reinforce the ambushed troops.

Tan said the military is still trying to ascertain who carried out the attack. (John Roson)

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Down. The Sokol military helicopter that crashed in Marawi City (photo from the Army 1st ID)

Down. The Sokol military helicopter that crashed in Marawi City (photo from the Army 1st ID)

Two people were injured when one of the military’s recently-acquired helicopters crashed in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, Thursday afternoon, authorities said.

The Air Force helicopter crashed around 2:30 p.m. shortly after taking off from the Army’s 103rd Brigade headquarters, Chief Superintendent Noel delos Reyes, director of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao police, said by phone.

It was carrying Army 4th Infantry Division chief Maj. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, Col. Alexander Macario, some staff members, and crew members, Delos Reyes said.

“Okay naman si general Visaya, he survived the crash, saka si Col. Macario. Mukhang ‘yung gunner lang ang injured, napilayan, but everybody is safe,” he said.

(photo from DILG)

(photo from DILG)

Chief Superintendent Robert Kuinisala, deputy director of the ARMM police, said he was informed that a civilian child playing near the crash site in Kampo Ranao, Brgy. Saber, was also hurt.

“Isang crew ng helicopter ay namanhid ang paa at isang batang civilian ang may minor wound po. Naglalaro daw ‘yung bata sa baba,” Kuinisala said in a text message.

The ill-fated helicopter was escorting another military chopper carrying Defense Sec. Voltaire Gazmin and Interior Sec. Mar Roxas, and a civilian chopper carrying Energy Sec. Jericho Petilla.

“Nagpunta sila (secretaries) to look into the power situation in Lanao del Sur, they met with local government officials. Paalis na sila, papunta na sa Cagayan de Oro,” Delos Reyes said.

(photo from Army 1st ID)

(photo from Army 1st ID)

The secretaries’ helicopters, which took off earlier, went back to check on the crashed chopper, he said.

The aircraft that crashed bears the body number 921 and is a Sokol helicopter, Kuinisala said, adding that the chopper’s propeller was damaged.

Gazmin’s office confirmed in a statement that the ill-fated helicopter was one of the recently-acquired W3A Sokol choppers.

“An investigation will be conducted to determine the cause of this incident,” according to the statement.

One of the Sokol helicopters being delivered in November 2012 (Air Force photo)

One of the Sokol helicopters being delivered in November 2012 (Air Force photo)

The government bought eight brand new Sokol helicopters from the joint venture of Polish manufacturer PZL-Swidnik and British-Italian firm AugustaWestland for P2.8 billion.

The units arrived in batches in February 2012, November 2012, and February 2013.

The helicopters were supposed be used for combat support operations but were eventually assigned to the Air Force’s 505th Search and Rescue Group, after its side door and gun mount were found “unfit” for the military’s tactics.

They are now being used to conduct rescue operations in times of calamities and transporting VIPs.

The incident in Marawi was not the first time for the Sokol units to encounter problems.

In July 2013, another Sokol helicopter (tail no. 310925) was stuck for five days in Camp Aguinaldo after failing to take off due to an undisclosed mechanical problem.

That helicopter was supposed to escort the group of Gazmin to an Air Force event in Pampanga. (John Roson)

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Authorities arrested the alleged mastermind of an investment scam during an operation in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, Tuesday afternoon, a police official said.

Jacob “Coco” Rasuman was arrested around 2:15 p.m. at his home in Brgy. Panggao Saduc, Senior Supt. Romeo Magsalos, Lanao del Sur provincial police director, said in a phone interview.

“Hindi naman siya (Rasuman) nagtago, taga-doon naman siya talaga,” Magsalos said, belying reports that the suspect hid for fear of reprisal from his victims.

Authorities were only able to arrest Rasuman on Tuesday, when the court issued a warrant, according to Magsalos.

Members of the National Bureau of Investigation-Region 10 served the warrant with the help of policemen and members of the Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade, he said.

“(Rasuman) has a similar scheme with Aman,” Magsalos said, referring to another investment scam that duped thousands of people in Mindanao of an estimated P12 billion. (John Roson)

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Anti-narcotics agents arrested a barangay chairman of Lanao del Sur and his two companions for selling shabu, during an entrapment operation in San Pedro, Laguna, authorities said Saturday.

Salpoden Mampao, chairman of Brgy. Mapoling, Lumba-Bayabao, was arrested inside a popular fast food chain outlet along the National Highway in Brgy. Nueva, on Monday, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief Arturo Cacdac said.

Also arrested were Mampao’s companions Matuan Badong, 22, and Jalal Rinanandang, 28, both residents of San Lorenzo Village, Brgy. Balibago, Sta. Rosa City.

“An undercover agent was able to hatch a drug transaction with Mampao, who agreed to rendezvous inside a restaurant,” Cacdac said in a statement.

Members of the PDEA Regional Office 4A and policemen seized Mampao and his companions after they received the marked P500 bill in exchange for two sachets with 10 grams of shabu worth P20,000, Cacdac said.

The operatives also confiscated two loaded caliber-.45 pistols, a caliber-.38 revolver, and a sports utility vehicle from the suspects.

Another companion of Mampao, identified only as a certain Nasser Afdal, was able escape.

Charges of violating Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 are now being prepared against the 28-year-old Mampao and his companions. (John Roson)

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An Indonesian believed to be a member of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) was killed during a police-military operation against members of the regional terror network inside the Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City, Thursday night.

Capt. Alberto Caber, spokesman of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, said the suspect was identified only through the aliases Ustadz Sanusi and Ishak.

The suspect, charged with arson and murder, was shot during a commotion that ensued from the operation in Barrio Salam. He was brought to the Amai Pakpak Hospital but died later, Caber said.

“Namatay siya (suspect) sa hospital, meron siyang isang tama… hindi natin malaman pa kung sino ang nakabaril kasi nagkaroon ng commotion,” the regional Army spokesman said in a phone interview.

Caber said members of the 103rd Infantry Brigade and PNP Special Action Force (SAF) were sent to the MSU compound to arrest seven alleged JI personalities, including alias Ustadz Sanusi.

The warrant of arrest for was issued by 11th Judicial Region RTC Judge Oscar Noel Jr. of Saranggani, Caber said.

A SAF member was wounded when he fell from a building during the short pursuit. Policemen recovered a hand grenade and M16 rifle from alias Ustadz Sanusi, Caber said. (John Roson)

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15 provinces under election watchlist

Authorities have placed 15 provinces placed under a watchlist for possible violence in the upcoming midterm elections, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas said.

In a press briefing, Roxas identified the provinces as Abra, Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Cagayan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Batangas, Cavite, Masbate, Samar, Misamis Occidental, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, and Basilan.

The provinces, which are home to intense political rivalry, history of armed violence, loose firearms, and private armed groups, are like a “powder keg,” Roxas told reporters.

“Ang mga ito ang may pinaka-high risk na magkaroon ng karahasan,” he said.

More cops on duty, jails checked

Roxas said police task forces will be sent to each of the provinces to help policemen already assigned there in securing the elections.

Police officials that have relatives or classmates who will run for posts in those provinces will be transferred to other areas.

Roxas said jails in the 15 provinces will also undergo a “judicial audit” so authorities can keep tabs of prisoners during the election period.

“Ito’y dahil madalas sinasabi na ang mga preso pinapalabas para gumawa ng karahasan tapos ipapasok lang uli,” he said.

‘The heat is on’

Meanwhile, Roxas said police have already recorded 35 election-related incidents nationwide, including the 15 watchlisted provinces.

“Ngayon pa lang nagkakainitan na,” he said.

In Maguindanao alone, six government officials have already been killed and at four private armed groups were monitored, Deputy Dir. Gen. Alan Purisima, commander of the national police’s election Task Force SAFE, said.

Eighty-five barangays in the province are affected by “threat groups,” Purisima said.

Roxas said 60 active and 47 “potential” private armed groups are being monitored nationwide.

There are 25,065 “loose firearms,” or those in the hands of criminals and rebels, while there are 552,338 firearms whose licenses have not been renewed, he said.

“Kabilang ang mga ito sa mga baril na maaring magamit sa halalan,” he said.

MILF help welcome

Meanwhile, Roxas said he is “open” to suggestions that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which just signed a “framework” peace agreement with the government, be tapped to help secure the elections.

However, Roxas said he still has to consult Presidential Peace Adviser Sec. Teresita Deles and chief peace negotiator Marvic Leonen on the matter.

“You have to understand that there’s also been years of mistrust, gaps, but this could be a good confidence-building measure,” he said. (John Roson)

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2 drown, 1 missing in Mindanao floods

Two people drowned while another is still missing as flash floods caused by a low-pressure area (LPA) hit several areas in Western, Central, and Southern Mindanao, authorities said.

Ruel Aling, 22, and Zosito Andamon, 28, drowned when floods hit Sta. Cruz and Digos City, Davao del Sur, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said.

Authorities are searching for Arjay Javier, who went missing after jumping into a river in Makilala, North Cotabato, which had strong water current caused by heavy rains.

The 17-year-old Javier was reportedly drunk on Sunday afternoon when he jumped into the river and was carried away by the strong current, the NDRRMC said.

Rains brought by the LPA also hit Davao del Sur on Sunday night, causing the Sibulan River in Sta. Cruz to overflow. Waters from the river flooded Brgys. Darong, Sibulan, and Astorga.

Floods also struck 21 barangays in Sultan Kudarat and Buldon, both of Maguindanao, as well as Brgy. Poblacion in Balabagan, Lanao del Sur, the NDRRMC said.

“Waist-deep floods and strong winds occurred in these areas, causing passengers to be stranded for few hours,” NDRRMC executive director Benito Ramos said.

The latest flooding occurred in Imelda, Zamboanga Sibugay, around 4 a.m. Monday.

The continuous heavy rainfall brought by the LPA and Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone caused the water level at the Sibuguey Valley River to rise, according Ramos.

Waters from the swollen river caused floods in Brgys. Poblacion, Balugo, Sta. Barbara, San Jose, La Victoria, Gandiangan, Lumpanac, and Lower Baluran, he said.

Some 250 families from Brgy. Poblacion were evacuated to higher ground and took shelter at a “bagsakan center,” while the affected residents of the other barangays opted to stay with relatives, Ramos said. (John Roson)

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Kidnappers freed public school teachers Rene Sumagang and Serfino Sanchez of Iligan City in Kapai, Lanao del Sur, on Sunday night but no ransom was paid, a military spokesman said Monday.

Sumagang and Sanchez were turned over by their captors to Tagoloan II Mayor Mizangcad Capal at the old barangay center of Kapai around 7:20 p.m., Army 1st Infantry Division spokesman Capt. Albert Caber said.

“The two were personally handed over by Mangagao Elias alias Ayatullah, leader of the 9-man kidnap-for-ransom group,” Caber said in a text message.

“The kidnappers decided to release their captives after sensing a big number of operating troops in the area,” he said.

Sumagang and Sanchez, both teachers at the Limonsudan Bayug Falls Elementary School, were kidnapped on March 19 in Sitio Kibulag, Brgy. Rogongon, Iligan City.

Elias and his men, alleged extortionists and cattle rustlers, had demanded P4 million in exchange for the teachers’ release. They also threatened to burn down their captives’ school in Brgy. Rogongon if no payment was made.

However, Caber said no ransom was paid as Lanao del Sur Gov. Bombit Adiong Jr., along with military and police officials, “exerted pressure” on the kidnappers.

After their release, Sumagang and Sanchez underwent medical checks and debriefing before being turned over to Iligan City Mayor lawrence Cruz and their families. (John Roson)

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