Mindanao Hour Press Briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella with Brigadier General Gilbert Gapay Deputy Commander, Eastern Mindanao Command Chief and Martial Law Spokesperson for Mindanao; Assistant Secretary Dickson Hermoso Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process; and Secretary Datu Abdul Khayr Alonto Chairperson, Mindanao Development Authority
Lispher Inn, Juna Avenue, Juna Subdivision, Matina, Davao City
23 June 2017

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Good morning. Welcome to Mindanao Hour. Today, we’re joined by several resource persons.

We have to my left Secretary Datu Abdul Khayr D. Alonto, he’s Chair of Mindanao Development Authority or MinDA. 

We also have to my right, our military resource, Brigadier General Gilbert Gapay, he is a chief and martial law spokesperson; Deputy Commander for East Min Com.

And also we’re being joined by Asec. Dickson Hermoso. He’s a retired Brigadier General. He’s also the Assistant Secretary of OPAPP and the lead for the peace corridor.

I’d like to begin by giving the Joint Task Force Marawi updates on the rebellion in Marawi as of 6 p.m. of 22nd of June 2017.

The civilians killed by terrorists is 26; civilians rescued by government troops 1,663; terrorists killed 280; recovered firearms by government troops from terrorists now at 298; government casualties killed in action 69; buildings cleared, 85.

Note: The BIFF attack in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato yesterday has been assessed to have no connection to the ongoing Marawi rebellion.

It is seen as the BIFFs’ attempt to recover from more than two weeks of setbacks from ongoing operations of the AFP’s 6th Infantry Division.

Following this incident, herein is a final report on the outcome of the incident: the number of hostages of rescued, 31; number of trapped civilian rescued, 73; number of government troops wounded-in-action, two; number of government troops killed-in-action, one; number of BIFF killed-in-action, six; number of BIFF wounded-in-action, eight; number of civilians killed-in-action, one killed by BIFF; number of civilians wounded-in-action, one; number of internally displaced persons, 367 households or 1,707 individuals.

The focus of Marawi military operations remains:

  1. The continued clearing of Marawi of remaining armed terrorists that continue to pose pockets of resistance to the advancing troops;
  2. Continue rescue of trapped residents to include those held as hostages;
  3. The continued of recovery of civilian casualties or cadavers;
  4. Assist the LGU, CSOs, NGOs on relief operations; and
  5. To prepare, assist Government/LGUs for the rehabilitation, reconstruction, rebuilding phase as soon as the rebellion is quelled. Joint Task Group Ranao was formed to focus on this.

Significant developments: Monitored increasing willful/[intentional] arson activities of the rebels in various areas of the city; and two, very significantly, the successful clearing of 85 buildings and more to follow.

The constraints remain:  The continued use of snipers, IEDs, and RPGs from remaining vantage positions will remain a challenge. Add to this the use of combustible materials and other incendiary devices.

Also, terrorists use of non-combatant civilians as shields and situating themselves in Mosques.

General Año, Chief of Staff, AFP reiterates that AFP is prepared to embark on other key tasks such as rehab and reconstruction of Marawi.

It has prepared a Combat Engineering Brigade with the Army and Navy for immediate deployment as soon as the clearing operations are completed.

I would now like to defer to General Gapay to gives us updates from the ground.

BRIG. GEN. GAPAY: Thank you sir. Secretary Abella, Secretary Alonto, Asec.Hermoso, ladies and gentlemen.

Allow me to read and give you a brief update on the implementation of martial law in Eastern Mindanao.

A month after the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, Eastern Mindanao Command has been steadfast in carrying out its mandate of securing and shielding the area from terrorists attacks following the dictum and principles of necessity, proportionality, and strict adherence to the rule of law and human rights.

I am glad to report that after a month, we have prevented the spillover of terrorism in Eastern Mindanao.

The said success is attributed to the aggressive security operations of our units; the tightened security measures being implemented in the area; the active coordination and collaboration of other law enforcement agencies, local government units, and the support of the general public.

To date, we have conducted a total of 13,149 checkpoints all over Eastern Mindanao. While curfews are continuously being implemented in 210 municipalities and barangays in our area of responsibility. This is in coordination with the LGUs and the PNP.

We are continuously engaging different organizations and sectors to explain our efforts in the implementation of martial law, to continuously assess and innovate our measures and activities that will enhance its implementation.

We have engaged the Association of Regional Executives and National Agencies or ARENA last Monday. And the other day, we have also engaged the business sector, specifically the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and other member European and American, as well as Canadian Chambers of Commerce.

After a month, we are also proud to report that based on the statement of the Commission on Human Rights, there is no reported abuse committed by our troops relative to the implementation of martial law.

We shall continue to observe the safeguards we have established like the establishment of the multi-sector advisory group, legal action or quick reaction teams, continuous troop information education on the rules of engagements, and other guidelines as we continuously implement martial law in Eastern Mindanao.

As we enter the second month of implementation, we’d like to assure the public that we shall continue to work for the safety and security of everyone, as mandated to us with utmost respect to human rights and the rule of law.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Thank you. We’d now like to refer the chair of MinDA to have—

SEC. ALONTO: Thank you Secretary Abella and to our friends in the media and our people. Assalamualaikum. Good morning.

It has been 31 days since the crisis in Marawi state, triggered by the attack on the city by the Daesh extremists on May 23 has begun.

But while government is now on the upper hand and the ranks of the Daesh extremists are dwindling in the face of our relentless military operations both on the ground and air, the consequent human cost to civilian lives and property, not [to] mention casualties among our valiant soldiers and extremist insurgents is appalling.

Needless to say, Marawi City has been emptied of its more than 200,000 plus residents, most of whom are now suffering in evacuation centers and private homes of friends and relatives in nearby towns and cities like Iligan, Cagayan de Oro, even as far as Cebu, Metro Manila, and Davao.

The tragedy in Marawi City underscores the urgent need to address and resolve the Bangsamoro Question.

It should now be obvious to all, including government and the people of this country, that the failure to address the Bangsamoro Question has invited the invasion of foreign Daesh extremism such as ISIS, which feeds on the frustration of the Bangsamoro people towards failed peace processes with mainstream liberation fronts as well as the Moros’ desperation in the face of historical and current injustices that have bred entrenched poverty and institutionalized social, political, economic, and cultural marginalization under the status quo.

The Marawi tragedy should propel us now to look at the merits of federalism as proposed by our beloved brother President, Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte. 

The current unitary state system, which is a carryover from Spanish and American colonialism has utterly failed not only to resolve the myriad problems besetting this country since its birth as a Republic in 1946 but it has absolutely failed to address the root cause of the Bangsamoro Question, which invariably fuels the conflict and continues to fester Mindanao and Sulu.

Today, as the violence in Marawi starts to abate as Daesh ISIS faces  inevitable defeat InShaAllah, [inaudible] thank God, in the hands of our government Armed Forces, the preparation for rehabilitation and reconstruction of the devastated city and its people begins and dominiates official conversation.

But even if such preparation is in order as it is in the bounden duty of the government to save the beleaguered segment of its national constituency from the horrors of debilitating war and conflict, in the longer term, the resolve to prevent such tragedy from happening again is imperative.

It is imperative because of its implications on state security and human security. This means we have to eliminate and/or resolve the causes through which Daesh ISIS has been able to find a foothold in the Bangsamoro and lure our desperate youth into its depraved and perverse ideology.

It is in this context, thus, that henceforth, we have to return to and find focus on the original flagship agenda of the President for system change — the Constitutional shift from the present unitary state to federalism.

This is not just a matter of reform. It has become a matter of survival for the Philippine State in light of the global menace of Daesh extremism that has, like a metastasizing cancer, now invaded our country through its back door.

The Marawi City tragedy ought to jolt us out of our smug complacency and oblivious treatment of the Bangsamoro Question.

We, in the Bangsamoro, therefore support without reservation the President’s determination to federalize the country through Constitutional change.

Towards this end, aware of the two conflicting tracts in the separate peace process involving the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front of brother Nur Misuari and their concomitant complexities apropos convergence, we are determined immediately convoke, with the official blessings of the President, the All-Moro Convention to expedite inclusivity or the participation of all sectors of the Bangsamoro and as well as the convergence of the two separate tracts, which means the peace agreement and the peace processes with the Moro fronts.

The All-Moro Convention will prepare the common Moro platform in the form of a proposed consolidated and comprehensive Moro law based on consensus, inclusivity and convergence in line and in preparation for federalism, which the Convention will submit to the Constitutional Commission that will prepare the draft of the new Constitution of the Federal Republic of the Philippines whether for Congress sitting as a Constituent Assembly or for a Constitutional Convention.

Thank you and thank you Mr. Secretary.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Thank you, Secretary Alonto. We’d now like to defer to [Assistant] Secretary Dickson Hermoso to give us an update regarding the peace corridor after which, we’ll have the Q & A.

ASEC. HERMOSO: Good morning to everyone. Last May 29, the President met Al Haj Murad Ebrahim of the MILF and the chair of our government implementing panel, Inday Irene Santiago. And from that day on, the establishment of the peace corridor should be put up in ground zero in Marawi to retrieve and recover trapped civilians and open a humanitarian corridor from Malabang to Marawi City and it was done on June 2.

From then on, when we established the joint coordination monitoring assistance team in Malabang, Lanao de Sur and in Marawi, we get this feedback and reactions from the people that they really denounced what this group, the Maute and the Abu Sayyafs, did to them and their community.

So from that moment on, we were able… in ground zero, we were able to retrieve and recover as of this late, 277 trapped civilians — wounded, children, women, elderly and those that are really in need of this humanitarian effort.

We coordinated this with the emissaries we have to connect us to the Maute and we bridged this to the government leadership in Marawi City for us to be given a respite of taking out or retrieving the trapped civilians.

Other than that, we were able to open up the humanitarian corridor from Malabang. For all we know, we thought that the IDPs of Marawi City are just in Iligan but there are so many that evacuated to the Lake — the towns [inaudible] along the Lake Lanao. There are so many.

So when we opened this corridor, many humanitarian groups already delivering assistance to the beleaguered people of the Lanao del Sur province and Marawi City.

So as of this report, there are so many humanitarian groups now delivering relief assistance and medical assistance to the towns surrounding the Lake Lanao.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Thank you. Before we go into the Q & A from the media, local media, we’d like to make references to certain questions that have already been texted in and this one is from Leila Salaverria, Inquirer. What role will Indonesia and Malaysia play in the Marawi conflict?

We have a statement regarding the matter:

We are making a collective effort — On the PH – trilateral agreement with Indonesia and Malaysia:

We are making a collective effort against terrorism and extremism. Yesterday, foreign military, intelligence officials from the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia had a fruitful and productive discussion on a trilateral cooperation aimed at preventing extremists and terrorists from establishing operational bases in Southeast Asia.

The three countries have agreed to work together to jointly develop and implement counterterrorism and measures and strategies.

Let us underline that their joint aim, the end game is to prevent the establishment of operational bases in Southeast Asia.

Also, on Australia’s offer to send two military surveillance aircraft to Marawi, statement:

As we previously stated, we would gladly welcome any form of foreign assistance allowed under our Constitution to help suppress the rebellion in Marawi.

Our Defense officials are in close coordination with their Australian counterparts in the latter’s offer of providing surveillance support to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Next, on Senator Gordon’s proposal to convert Marawi into a tourist hub. [Is that all right?]

We totally agree with Senator Gordon. The Department of Tourism recognizes the potential of Marawi as a tourist destination considering its cool weather overlooking a scenic lake plus the attraction of the university.

We are hopeful that the rehabilitation of Marawi will also include the creation of a tourism master plan for the area.

Next, on the Marawi rehabilitation fund:

The Duterte administration is now preparing a comprehensive multi-year Marawi reconstruction plan. A task force consisting of the Department of Education, the Department of Health, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and the Department of Agriculture (DA), the Department of National Defense, the Department of Interior and Local Government, and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council will be convened to make an assessment of the situation.

Repairs, rehabilitation and reconstruction of public infrastructure in Marawi will be funded. As in a conversation with Secretary Ben Dioko this morning. He did say that… he affirmed that the… the financial aid as promised, the 10 billion as promised will come from PAGCOR and reconstruction of infra will come from the GAA.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation for the President’s financial assistance and the social welfare assistance to Marawi victims will come from GAA.

GSIS and SSS members may apply for loans from their respective institutions.

The Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines may open lending facilities to Marawi entrepreneurs.

Housing will be provided to the families of soldiers and police killed-in-action through the National Housing Authority.

The education of children of the soldiers and police killed-in-action — from K to 12 plus tech-voc or college — for a maximum of two children, will be provided through the Department of Education, Technical Education and Skills [Development] Authority, and the 113 state universities and colleges.

We are now open to questions from the floor.


Q: To Secretary Abella. Sir how would you rate the first month of martial law? Have you achieved what you sought to achieve?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, we do not go by ratings. But we do say that we have actually preempted the establishment of a wilayat and so I believe that’s a — And we have already started to work with… into agreements with neighboring nations.

So the main goal of preventing is actually, has already been, I believe, hugely successful in the…

We have prevented the establishment of this wilayat. And we have now entered into agreements and also with the neighboring countries so that this will not recur.

So largely we consider — Those are the things we mentioned.

Q: Will you lift martial law anytime soon? Or are you going to ask for an extension from Congress before 60 days is over?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: That will depend on the recommendation of the Secretary of National Defense, of the Armed Forces who are the implementors of martial law.

Q: Sir, ‘yung mga Marawi din po. Balikan ko lang ‘yung financial aid. How much is the cost for, ‘yun nga,  ‘yung P10 billion pesos—?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, like we said, the assessment has not yet been made.

Task Force Ranao, the task force, the group that is in charge is actually being readied, is actually preparing for this. They’re laying the groundwork. And as soon as the military says that Lanao is cleared, they will go into action. So until then, we will have to wait for their assessment.

Q: So no timeline po on—?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: We do not offer timelines. We just go by progress reports, okay?

Q: Sir, question din po kay General Gapay. Meron pong mga lumalabas ngayon na storya po, ‘yung about sa sinabi daw ng BIFF na next target nila is, si President Duterte, following the Pigcawayan incident. And then to Sir Hermoso po, how can it affect ‘yung peace talks din po?

BRIG. GEN. GAPAY: Okay. That pronouncement of the BIFF is a desperate pronouncement ano, because what happened in Pigcawayan recently was a theoretic retaliation of… and somehow a diversionary attack resulting from the setbacks, major setbacks they have been experiencing in their stronghold in Maguindanao, specifically the SPMS box, because our forces there have also intensified operations against the BIFF.

These are complementary operations for operations in Marawi. So the Armed Forces not only operating in Marawi, but we have several operations ongoing all over Mindanao addressing various terrorist groups, and one of these is BIFF.

So what happened there is a retaliatory attack and is not connected with the Marawi operations.


ASEC HERMOSO: Well, as to the effect in the peace process, the BIFF deprivation yesterday and the other day in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato has no effect to the ongoing implementation of the agreement with the MILF. It has no effect to the ongoing talks because BIFF is not MILF.

Q: Good morning sir. Kay Secretary Abella po muna. Sir, I think the quote from Australia, from the Australian Defence Ministry is that our government has already accepted their offer. So, three Orion airplanes ata, surveillance airplanes ‘yun sir, aircraft. So natanggap na, nag-oo na po tayo. Can we know kung saan siya ide-deploy? Maybe General Gapay also can said a few more details on where this surveillance aircraft will be deployed?

BRIG. GEN. GAPAY: Okay. In every military operation, the intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance capability is very important.

So having these capabilities, it could be used in any military operation, not just Marawi, but of course in all other operations in Mindanao.

Q: When do we expect sir the Australian surveillance aircrafts?

BRIG. GEN. GAPAY: I really don’t have the information right now, but it is a welcome development to boost our capability in as far ISR is concerned.

Q: Secretary Abella, the United States, I think some of the Republican senators are worried that the ISIS is trying to establish its base in Southeast Asia and they have interests in Southeast Asia. They want a high profile named operation in the Philippines to help combat… to fight ISIS, meaning they want a bigger role. Are we open to that idea sir?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Like the President said, we’re quite capable at this stage. We welcome any support, but at this stage we take the lead, along with the regional… along with the regional states around us.

And as we have demonstrated, we have already actually preempted the establishment of such a… such a state supposedly.

And so we call it grace or what. But the resilience of the Filipino, but we have actually shown that we can actually back up our… the statements of an independent foreign stance.

However, like we said, as been demonstrated, we do welcome support.

Q: But at this moment sir, do I take it to mean that you know, hindi muna natin kailangan ang America?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: There is no report on accepting that offer. If it is.

Q: Sir, on the BIFF, for both for Secretary Abella and General Gapay. Is there an alliance between Maute and BIFF?

BRIG. GEN. GAPAY: Yes. BIFF, particularly the Bungos faction, they both, just like the Maute, they both have sworn allegiance to ISIS sometime in 2015. So I think there’s the connection in the link, between the two groups.

Q: Yeah, but that’s BIFF to ISIS and then Maute to ISIS. But Maute to BIFF? Meaning, can they coordinate attacks?

BRIG. GEN. GAPAY: Oh yes, as far as tactical alliance is concerned, that is very possible and we have seen that in some operations wherein BIFF fighters are sending augmentation to, not just Maute, but also other terrorist, local terrorist groups in the country.

Q: In this case sir how serious of a threat is BIFF?

BRIG. GEN. GAPAY: Actually, it’s not as serious as the one we’re fighting in Marawi because BIFF is contained in their stronghold in SPMS box and our troops there is doing very well in containing the BIFF.

Q: But how do we prevent sir from… the BIFF from becoming another Maute? Because your assessment earlier on Maute was just, you know, a ragtag family run group, but now it’s become an international high profile terrorist group.

BRIG. GEN. GAPAY: Just like Maute Group, BIFF is also a target of… being a local terrorist group is also a target of military operations. A dedicated unit is right now tasked to address this threat.

And just like our effort against the Maute group, we will sustain our operations against the BIFF until they have been decimated.

Q: Just two more questions for Secretary Abella and Asec. Hermoso. Sir, nasagot na po ni General Gapay kanina. But how is the Palace taking ‘yung threat ng BIFF to target the President?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Well, first and foremost, we think we need to just go back to the narrative, as already expressed by Secretary Ga — Asec. Hermoso.

The fact that there’s actually no ground support for them. The— the — the local Muslim community, the Maranaos especially, do not want this. And for whatever reason that they are dealing with this, whether it is personal interest or what, there is no ground support for them.

Even reports on the evacuees, they are saying actually that they do not like this. They do not want this. And so, it — it goes back to that. I think we need to go back to the fact that really, this is an isolated — these are isolated groups that are wa— that are brilliant at media manipulation.

However, they do not have the necessary support coming from the ground itself.

Q: You don’t think they can carry out any attack on the President?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: As expressed, as shown. History… Based on results, no.

Q: Okay sir, thank you, thank you. Asec. Hermoso, nung na-ambush po namin si Presidente nung — I think sa CDO, ang sabi niya, on Monday, he will accept and sign the BBL. Can you provide more details?

ASEC. HERMOSO: Well, actually it is beyond me to answer this political question. But…

Q: Procedural, sir?

ASEC. HERMOSO: What I heard is the President will be in Malacañang on the 27th for this. But I do not know the other development of the matter.

Q: But you can confirm, sir that it will be submitted, the BBL?

ASEC. HERMOSO: I am not privy to the details because I am just working on the ground. And for sure there wi— there will be something big that will happen in the next few days about the BBL.

Q: General Año expressed concerns yesterday that more foreign terrorists may plan to go to the Philippines with ISIS weaking in Mosul. What measures are being taken to prevent this from happening? Do we have new estimates on how many foreign terrorists are working with Maute and are in Mindanao? And do you have the identities, names of these people, and what kind of support do foreign terrorists usually provide local terrorists in the country? General Gapay?

BRIG. GEN. GAPAY: Yes. Firstly, these foreign terrorists, they have slipped into our country using the — our backdoor in the south because it is very porous as we know it.

And we are not also discounting the possibility that some may have slipped in the country through our airports and seaports. So I guess we have to really tighten and enhance our security measures as far as the Immigration is concerned.

But on the part of the military and the security sector, there is really a need to enhance the security of our southern backdoor. It is very porous. We need to enhance… We have to intensify maritime patrols.

The recent trilateral agreement is a welcome development because with Malaysia and Indonesia assisting us, the joint patrols there would really enhance and [plug?] the porous borders in the south.

Of course, the exchange of information, the tracking of foreign terrorists should also be helpful.

Now as far as those already in country, based on the latest intelligence report, and as… based on the pronouncement of the Chief of Staff, there are some 40 foreign terrorists in country now.

Of course, we have identified them. Most of them are Malaysians, Indonesians. Some are Arabs and Pakistanis.

So, we have their names and they are identified.

Q: How many were neutralized? Because some — according to some, in Marawi, there were foreigners who were also in the fight?

BRIG. GEN. GABAY: Yes, there were eight neutralized in Marawi, as reported by our forces on the ground.

Q: Sir Gapay, sir, good morning. Reaction lang po sa claim ng human rights groups na may mga abuses daw po with the declaration of martial law, especially sa Southern at South-central Mindanao, sir?

BGEN. GAPAY: In Eastern Mindanao, we haven’t received any report of any human rights abuses committed by our troops as we — as we implement martial law.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: In fact, CHR itself has said that there is none.

Q: So there is a follow up question for General Gapay from JP. Was there any lapse in Immigration procedures when the 40 foreign ISIS fighters ended up entering the country’s shores to help local extremists in building [inaudible] in Mindanao? What is the government doing to prevent more of this happening?

BRIG. GEN. GAPAY: Well, we assess that most of these foreign terrorists have slipped inside the country through the backdoor. But if there are… if there are some who have slipped through our airports and seaports, I think we really have to also tighten up and strengthen Immigration procedures in our airports.

But of course, this is the turf of the Bureau of Immigration.

Q: To Asec. Hermoso, sir. What’s your assessment on the partnership of the government and MILF in saving trapped civilians in Marawi through the peace corridor?

ASEC. HERMOSO: Well, really, I can vouch with their sincerity and their volunteerism and their spirit to help us in this peace corridor.

There are 50 of them that we organized into five teams. And they are the ones going inside the ground zero in Marawi to retrieve trapped civilians and they did good.

Until now, they are doing it. And they are really partners now. And even the security of the peace corridor that traversed from Malabang to Marawi, they are with us. They joined the government and the security of the route and the convoy of humanitarian goods.

Q: Follow up, Asec. Will this help build trust of the people to MILF? There was a survey recently that MILF is getting low trust rating, survey done by SWS?

ASEC. HERMOSO: Pardon me?

Q: Will this help build trust of the people to MILF? Just recently, the SWS conducted a survey and the result was MILF is getting low trust rating.

ASEC. HERMOSO: Well we can see their sincerity in helping the government, especially when Al Haj Murad Ebrahim went to the President on day one, or after the day the siege of Marawi started.

They — they talked to the President. They even volunteered to help. They denounced the Maute, the terrorists, and even support the declaration of martial law.

And now, we can see the… the fruition of this, with this peace corridor, that they are innate and they are helping us. And we hope that this confidence-building will reverberate to the people of the country when the law is passed — the BBL is passed.

So, the MILF now is really a partner for peace and development in Mindanao.

Q: Okay, sir just a follow up. On the question about human rights violations at Marawi. There was a statement made by the National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission saying that there was a… there was a common cases of human rights violations in Marawi. Just want to quote, “itong forcible evacuation, indiscriminate bombardment, destruction of properties, divestment of properties, threat, harassment, intimidation, especially in the evacuation area.” In fact, the Congress, I guess would like to have an investigation on these human rights cases at Marawi, sir. Kay Secretary Abella?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Let me just go back, ‘no. Let me just go back to… the President’s instruction to the military is to protect and save lives. That is the general intention, okay?

The President likewise noted that if one is a law-abiding and peace-loving citizen, martial law is not a problem. And that one should worry about… one should worry about… because martial law is intended for the lawless elements and the rebels around.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines will thus guarantee the safety of each citizen who are doing the right things and not the wrong things and not breaking the law.

Also, the enforcement and implementation in Mindanao takes into account the complete regard of human rights, international humanitarian law, and other protocols that have already been established in the military.

Be that as it may, if there are any complaints, our Armed Forces are open to receiving these complaints and acting on them immediately.

However, for example, being told to move and for example, what’s happening in the ground, you know the President has already apologized for that. You know, and the Maranaos have already accepted it.

And I think there should be… at a certain stage, there should be… you know some of these are really a kneejerk reaction of certain leftist groups, you know.

And I think we should you know really… we should really just come together and be more unified and act as if we are all Filipinos concerned for one concern.

Remember, we are not one another’s enemies. We are actually —supposed to be united against a common enemy. And actually, what we are having is, you know, is somebody trying to establish a state within a state.

That is a clear and present danger. You know, what don’t you get about that? You know, I think it is about time that we really just grew up and became more mature, and became more politically more sophisticated and actually, aside from that, we’re really just more concerned and supportive of one another. Thank you.

Q: Paano niyo nasabi na walang koneksyon ang Pigcawayan incident sa Marawi, eh sinasabi niyo rin na the Maute and BIFF ay konektado and can support each other? General Gapay?

BRIG. GEN. GAPAY: Yes, but for this particular incident, it’s more on a retaliation and diversion to the setback they are having in Maguindanao. That’s why they attacked Pigcawayan, the two barangays there. And ‘yun nga. And another thing is we have received some reports from the civilians there that the BIFF who attacked were also engaged in foraging, and even looting civilian houses in those barangays.

So, there’s no — for this particular incident, there is no direct connection with the Marawi operations.

Q: Thank you, General Gapay. For Secretary Abella. This is a question, clarification from Philippine Star, Ace Romero. Paki-clarify po, ‘yung rehab funds hindi na po galing sa PAGCOR, kung hindi sa national budget?


Q: ‘Yung PAGCOR— ‘yung rehab funds, hindi na po galing sa PAGCOR? Not from PAGCOR but from national budget na?

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: Ang nilinaw ko po kanina, na ‘yung financial aspect ay manggagaling po sa— ‘yung financial assistance na… na ipinangako ng Presidente manggagaling po sa PAGCOR. Pero ‘yung mga— ‘yung mga infra, ‘yung ibang mga social  services ay manggagaling po sa GAA. ‘Yun po.

Q: Good morning po. Sir, pinaliwanag niyo na kanina na for this particular incident, walang koneksyon ‘yung BIFF incident with the Marawi happening right now. Pero when we went there, merong mga lumalabas na may issues na possible na may galit kay Pangulo — I mean, direktang galit sa Pangulo, ‘yung mga BIFF members. That’s why they even burned and torn down ‘yung pictures ni Pangulo and wrote some messages doon sa walls sa may school ng Malagakit. How do you— I mean do you confirm that?

BRIG. GEN. GAPAY: Okay, these are desperate moves and undertaken actions by the BIFF. Dahil they were expecting a big result out of that attack, because almost 100 of them attacked two barangays in Pigcawayan.

It was a significant number and they were expecting a result in the furtherance of their — of what they want to achieve that —papapansin ba na, “We’re still here, we’re still a force to reckon with.”

But it turned out to be otherwise, that’s why noong napahiya na sila, so before they fled, ‘yun na. They destroyed some… some… the schools there, classrooms and even, ‘yun nga, the picture of our President, and they uttered certain… certain things. So, parang these are desperate moves on their part. 

Q: Okay, there’s a question for Secretary Alonto from JP Bencito, Manila Standard. Last May 26, President Duterte, in a speech in England, said that he asked you, Secretary Alonto and PA for OFW, si Abdulah Mamao to talk with neutral forces and see if the ongoing strife in Mindanao could still be fixed by talking. Sir?

SEC. ALONTO:  Yes, in fact as I said in the instruction from the President, he sent me in Marawi. I was there, and I have seen, I have felt how people were moving out. And that’s when everybody in fact evacuated, including government officials.

That is precisely why I have given instruction to the provincial governor, the vice governor, and the city mayor, to [inaudible] and since there were no longer [inaudible] because they also allowed even the drivers, government drivers that were allowed to evacuate with their families.

It becomes more of a family affair where we have the family [inaudible] and the family…  So they were running the government.

The government was there, the retrieval work was there. And I told, “You have to stay here. Make this as your [inaudible]. And it was the family and in fact, immediately I communicated with (inaudible) that we have warm bodies of 2,000 ready to fight with the government, on the side of the government.

And instructions were [inaudible] and then we did it. And in fact, the tribal operations were done, and that is precisely when men that came in that certainly where we started our operation. And in fact, we are thanking also the Cabinet spouses for providing the assistance and with the Air Force for the air lifts of goods.

But what is there and what our people have to understand, part of these doubting Thomases, martial law has been declared.

The President had crossed the Rubicon, no turning back. They did not — the government of Duterte did not declare war against the good people of Marawi.

No, we — the government did not attack Marawi. Marawi was attacked and this is one area where the people, those doubting Thomases were weary of the martial law because all the ingredients that requires the declaration of martial law is there. Rebellion is there, the ASG is there.

And if ASG comes, most are from eminent families. And then you have the BIFF and then you have this, this Daesh right now, this ISIS.

Now, if they are not talking about — and they are not even [inaudible] about the rebellion, there is that invasion. Although gradually their pursuit led to report on the premise of invasion. In fact, (inaudible), we invite— we invited some of these casualties on that side of the ground and there were foreign elements, foreign nationals involved, about eight to 10.

More than 20, almost about 30 plus casualties on the side of the ISIS, but eight of these were foreign nationals, which, even their countries, have acknowledged two of their nationals.

Now these are the things that we have to… and immediately after that, we recommended to the President through a memo, and I presented to him that we also need the operation, the cooperation of our neighboring countries, our friends, particularly in BIMP-EAGA, in particular Indonesia and Malaysia, of course with the support of Brunei, that this must be a concerted effort because it does not necessarily mean it’s only the security of Marawi.

We have to stop this and contain Marawi because what will happen in Marawi might happen in Kuala Lumpur or in Jakarta. These are the things where I have [stated?] on the primary concerning the securities and of course, with due respect to our people in the security community.

We have to encourage and it has the support of the good people of Mindanao that this is jointly have to be addressed by the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia because it is the same.

This is a war of annexation. They want to annex, as what the good Secretary referred to as the wilayat.

Wilayat in Arabic and in English, it is a province. This is a war of annexation to make Marawi City as the capital of the province of the ISIS. And that is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, where you are referring to now as the ISIS.

Now, they want it. Now, these are the things also that we have to look into and in fact they have differed on this because a combination has been made and [inaudible]… we can talk with and exchange ideas on these and finding out on the ground exactly from an impeachable source, we did it and we have provided the government all of these reports through the [inaudible].

This is a war of annexation. This is not only a rebellion and we have to stop it. Otherwise, the next might be the capitals of our neighbors. And it’s happening. What happened in Aleppo, what happened in Syria and in Baghdad and in Iraq must not happen here. But it happened and it happened in Marawi.

The humanitarian — the damage — the collateral damage has been there and this may take some time for us to reconstruct, to rehabilitate the area, particularly the lives of these people who suffered and subjected to this barbaric not in fact, this is not a war of religion also and we want to spell it out.

This is not a work of religion. In fact, it is even blasphemous to refer to these people as Muslims because there is nothing in the Quran that will state that you have to fight and do this and burn your own house.

This is even a [inaudible]… even if your own house — your own house, you own it and you built it, you burn it and you will still have to deal with the government because that is simple arson.

This one, we will attack and it is in fact, with the support of our people, [inaudible] and we are in fact, if this will not be resolved, even the extension, if it will be the recommendation of our Executive people though our martial law administrator.

Because Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and if they feel that there is a need to extend martial law, then we are asking for it. It must be extended so that we can solve this problem, it will not happen in your city.

And mind you, gentlemen, what happened there, as the saying goes, “We have come in the night and if we knew you’re right, we will fight as if it is our own. Because if they come in the night, they will come for you in the morning.”

Q: Good morning, General Gapay. There was a report that Malaysian IS leader Mahmud Ahmad was killed during the operations. Could you tell us about that?

BRIG. GEN. GAPAY: So, we don’t have the details of that — of that incident.

Q: But the report has reached you? Do you at least know — when did you receive that report? Was there any specifics on the reported killing of Mahmud Ahmad?

BRIG. GEN. GAPAY: We don’t have the details of that report as of now.  

Q: Sir Gapay there is another clarification here. Sinabi niyo kasi ‘yung direct threat ng BIFF kay President Duterte ay desperate pronouncement. This is a question from Reymund Tinaza of Bombo Radyo. So meaning, walang capability ang BIFF to do this? So no need to adjust the security of the President and the public is assured of his safety. Another question related to this. From Hannah Sancho of (SMNI). Mas lalo po bang hindi makikita in public si Pangulong Duterte dahil sa threat ng BIFF? General Gapay?

BRIG. GEN. GAPAY: So with a strong political will demonstrated by the President, it really — sabi nga niya from his words, marami siyang kaaway na — he’s making many enemies. And of course our PSG — Presidential Security Group is making some adjustments on this. And of course, security measures are being assessed from time to time for the safety and security of our… of our President. 

Q: We will accommodate two more questions but there is another question here for Secretary Abella. Ano daw po ang pinagkakaabalahan ng Pangulong Duterte kapag nagpapahinga? Baka ma-miss na naman po siya ng kritiko at media.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: So ang tanong po, anong ginagawa niya pag nagpapahinga siya?

May babasahin po ako patungkol doon sa tanong kanina, pahabol. Patungkol po doon sa ano, sa Australian.

Babasahin ko po. Well, galing po sa kanila, sinabi na nila. Basically ‘yun lang pala na tinanggap — [Anong tawag nito?]

I recently spoke with my counterpart Secretary of Defense Delfin Lorenzana about how Australia can assist the Philippines in its fight against extremists.  

We agreed that the best way to defeat terrorism in our work is for us to work together. Okay.

So ‘yun ang kanilang — Basically, generic ‘yung statement nila na— Pero hindi po nila, wala silang reference tungkol sa actual pagtanggap, okay, that it has been offered. Salamat po. Thank you very much.

Q: To General Gapay, ‘yung naiwan po na Maute, are they just trapped or they dug into fight to the finish, if, if ma-liberate po natin ‘yung Marawi, will we see the total destruction of the terrorist group?

BRIG. GEN. GAPAY: The destruction of the terrorist groups holding up in Marawi. But of course, based on the arrest we’re having right now, we have been implementing the arrest orders.

This gives us a picture of how… the expanse of their network is so— But right now, the focus is really ridding this Maute group of their armed capability, their capability to launch terrorist acts.

And after that, we will run after their networks, their supporters, up to the last member so that they won’t thrive anymore in our country.

Q: Good morning. To Asec. Dickson, sir. What are the challenges facing the peacekeepers in retrieving more, or saving more trapped civilians from the conflict zone in Marawi?

ASEC. HERMOSO: Of course, they’re taking the risk. They’re civilians and they volunteered themselves to go into ground zero.

The risk is high at… they, they know this.

The only thing is they’re also Maranaos. They know what is happening inside the ground zero. They equally share the burden of those people being trapped and still continuing up to this moment.

We know na marami pang dapat kunin doon, lalo na ‘yung mga sugatan na civilians, mga bata, matatanda. At there are so many stories behind it. And if you are there, tutulo ‘yung luha mo dahil maraming mga nagawa ‘yung ating mga volunteers.

Q: Sir, will you see, do you see this partnership graduate to higher level like partnering in rehabilitating Marawi?

 Yes. Actually, in the incident two days ago in Pigcawayan, our ceasefire mechanisms, both in the government and the MILF, worked together in helping the military contain the situation.

There are two barangays, Malagakit and Simsiman, especially Simsiman in Pigcawayan is a community of the MILF.

So what they did, they blocked that place from the incursion of this BIFF. That is why, if you noticed, the BIFF started attacking Barangay Malagakit at 5:30 in the morning and it ended at 5:30 in the afternoon because also of the help of the MILF.

Q: To General Gapay. Sir, ‘di ba mag spread ‘yung activities ng BIFF sa ibang areas naman ng ano, Mindanao?

BRIG. GEN. GAPAY: Based on the reports coming from JTF Central, they’re — the BIFF during their pursuit operations, went back to their stronghold in Magindanao, in SPMS box.

So they are contained once again there and of course, security measures are in place to see to it that there will be no spillover here in Eastern Mindanao.

Q: Sir, pinatatanong lang sir. ‘Yung security measures po for the Monday’s celebration of Eid’l Fitr, sa areas po ng East Min Com, given that there are many memos and other texts threatening to conduct atrocities in key cities in the Philippines?

BRIG. GEN. GAPAY: Okay. Of course the security measures, we have set up at the start of martial law will continue. Checkpoints, curfews, security patrols, particularly in the areas where there will be some celebrations for Eid’l Fitr.

But we have also touched based with the Maranao communities, Muslim communities here sa Mindanao and jointly we are crafting extra, extra measures particularly where big celebrations will be held.

Q: For General Gapay, you said that the PSG is making adjustments on the President’s security details?

BRIG. GEN. GAPAY: Every engagement is a different one so it depends on the area of engagements. So they have to make adjustments if it’s in Luzon, Visayas or Mindanao, and based on the level of threat. So not all engagements have the same level of security preparation.

Q: But does this have anything to do with the BIFF threat?

BRIG. GEN. GAPAY: Not really, but that would be in general, in general terms.

Q: Alright sir, thank you sir.  

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON ABELLA: I believe one of the reasons why one of the lessons we can take away from this situation in Mindanao is that we have people coming from the outside because they believe in the strong narrative, they have a very strong story that they want to establish a province in Southeast Asia, specifically in the Philippines.

I think — I believe this is also in a sense a wake-up call for Filipinos to be able to come together and begin to believe that we have a higher narrative aside from our local, regional, and personal interests.

I think it’s high time that we continue to build up on our values, family values, and also higher values, and also go back to the fact that what we are really — like what the good secretary said earlier, we are actually defending. And what are we defending? We are really defending the Filipino way of life. 

We’re defending our sense of community, we’re defending our sense of higher values, but we’re not defending ourselves against other people.  We’re simply saying that we want to establish what we truly and honestly believe that we can have a — as the President is saying — a comfortable life, comfortable life that is based on common prosperity, common humanity, law and order, understanding and support.

So I believe it’s really high time for us to really again come together and believe that we can establish the Filipino way of life.

Good morning and God bless.