Tag: Philippines

Philippines: Muslims help Christians hide and head out of Marawi

By John Unson

The rescued evacuees huddle with Lanao del Sur Vice Gov. Mamintal Adiong, Jr., who supplied them with relief provisions before sending them to an evacuation center. Philstar.com, file

A Lanao del Sur provincial official on Sunday confirmed the rescue of 39 Christians trapped in the crossfire between soldiers and Maute terrorists that laid siege to their village in Marawi City.

Lanao del Sur Vice Gov. Mamintal Adiong, Jr. told The STAR Sunday that the dangerous rescue was initiated by the information officer of the provincial government, Salma Jayne Tamano, who is a Muslim, and her relatives.

“This is a good story of Muslim-Christian unity worth sharing to the whole world,” Adiong said.

Senior Supt. Oscar Nantes, provincial police director, said the 39 evacuees, who had not eaten for days, just lay flat on the floors of houses in the Lilod Madaya and Saduc areas, where they hid for more than 36 hours due to the presence of gunmen in the area.

Nantes said Tamano’s team also rescued two Muslim elders who provided the 39 evacuees sanctuary while firefights erupted in the village.

The hungry rescuees were immediately fed and submitted to evaluation by rehabilitation experts.

Adiong said he is thankful to the Muslim villagers who protected the 39 Christians in the middle of intense gunfights in the area.

More than 100 Christians helped relocate

Myrna Jocelyn Henry, a communication staff of the Humanitarian Emergency Assistance and Response Team (HEART) of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, earlier Sunday said that residents of the predominantly Muslim city have facilitated the safe relocation of more than a hundred Christians to safer areas in the past four days.

“The ARMM government is thankful to these Muslim Marawi residents for helping save the lives of non-Muslims. The HEART has facilitated the return of some of them to their respective provinces,” she said.

Henry also said the ARMM’s relief team is also validating the reported rescue by a Muslim state prosecutor of 42 Christians from the campus of a school gunmen set fire to on Friday night.

The prosecutor reportedly gave sanctuary to the 42 Christians in a tall building somewhere in Marawi City and relocated them out in batches.

“We don’t have complete details on how the reported rescue was done. Just the same, we are grateful for the big help. The HEART is ready to extend rehabilitation support to those 42 people,” Henry said.

The recent clashes, which were sparked by a security operation against Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, has led to anti-Muslim sentiment, especially online.

Islam prohibits terrorism

Ironically, ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman had challenged the members of the Abu Sayyaf, Maute group, “lost commands” and other terror groups influenced by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria earlier on May 23 to use the month of Ramadan for reflection.

“I hope they will realize that what they believe (about jihad and terrorism) is not true, and what they do is not right because they will just harm themselves the more because of what they do. They are destroying the lives of others,” Hataman said.

The Regional Darul Ifta’ of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao issued a fatwa, or ruling, in 2015 that “terrorism and mischief cannot be accepted as synonyms for Jihad or one of struggle’s methods because our religion commands us to be compassionate to all beings in the land.”

The council said that “Islam cannot approve criminal and terrorist practices, because attacking innocent people, robbing their money unjustly taking their infallible lives, diffusion terror and fear in the hearts of the faithful persons is forbidden in Islam or in our Islamic law.”



Christians Shot dead in Attack on Marawi, Philippines

The Rev. Teresito Suganob, in still from video released on May 30. (Screenshot)

Among 19 civilians an Islamic extremist group in the Philippines killed after storming a city on May 23 were eight Christians shot for refusing to recite the Muslim creed, government investigators told local press.

They were the first Christians slain in the ongoing battle for Marawi City, capital of Lanao del Sur Province on the island of Mindanao, where a kidnapped priest appeared in a propaganda video on Tuesday (May 30) pleading for his life.

The Maute Group kidnapped the Rev. Teresito “Chito” Suganob, Catholic vicar-general of the prelature of Marawi, at St. Mary’s Cathedral along with 13 other parishioners. More than 100 people reportedly have been killed since the May 23 assault, including 89 of the Islamist militants, 21 security force personnel and 20 soldiers.

Government investigators said the eight slain Christian laborers had fled Marawi and were on their way to the neighboring city of Iligan when dozens of armed Maute militants stopped them. The Islamist militants tied their hands and shot them after the Christians refused to recite the Muslim conversion creed.

Their bodies were reportedly thrown into the ditch, and a signboard was placed beside them reading “Munafik,” which means traitor or liar.

The assailants also asked Police Senior Inspector Freddie Solar to recite the Muslim creed, and as a non-Muslim he too declined and was killed, his wife told investigators.

Along with the priest, the militants have reportedly taken more than 200 hostages. An estimated 200,000 people have fled the city.

The battle in Marawi broke out when police authorities and Philippine soldiers were trying to serve an arrest warrant to the militants’ leader, Isnilon Hapilon, but while raiding his hideout, the soldiers encountered a rain of bullets from militants guarding Hapilon, who escaped.

Teddy Sugpatan, a church elder with the Assembly of God, told Morning Star News that the battle is part of a spiritual warfare. Citing Ephesians 6:12-ff, he called on Christians to remain steadfast, as the struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the “powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil.”

Nearly 100,000 civilians have reportedly fled Marawi while 129 people, including 89 militants and 21 security forces have been killed. Marawi is predominantly Muslim.

Suganob, vicar general vicar-general of the prelature of Marawi, appealed in the video for the government to meet the Maute Group’s demands and stop fighting. The IS-affiliated group has warned the officials that they would harm the priest if the government does not stop airstrikes. The video was circulated through social media.

“Mr. President [Rodrigo Duterte], we are in the midst of this war,” Suganob says. “We are asking for your help to please give what they are asking for, to withdraw forces away from Lanao del Sur and Marawi City, and to stop the air attacks, and to stop the cannons.”

The Philippines military and others dismissed the video as propaganda that the priest was evidently coerced to make.

The leader of a Christian ministry in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said that since the IS ideology is already present in the southern Philippines, Christian workers have been praying day and night that it will not influence the children they are serving.

The ministry teaches Muslim children the importance of love.

Maute Terrorists

The Maute Group is one of the newest but most feared terror groups in the southern Philippines; it became better known in November last year when its members raided Butig town in Lanao del Sur and raised an IS-similar flag in the town hall. MG engaged government soldiers, and since then the administration has not taken the group lightly.

Based in Central Mindanao, MG, locally known as the Islamic State in Lanao (ISIL), was founded by brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute and originally had an estimated 100 members. Intelligence reports indicate that they have joined forces with other terror groups operating in the southern Philippines.

A number of the MG militants are erstwhile members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest Islamic revolutionary group, which has entered into a peace talks with the government. The military is expected to face a complex challenge as MG members are married to relatives of MILF militants now finalizing a peace pact with the government.

Moreover, the Philippine military has also arrested suspected members of MG who were responsible for the September 2016 bombing of a Davao City night market that killed 14 people. Davao is the hometown of Duterte.


Source: Morning Star News

Chaos in the Philippines as Islamist group storms city, abducts Christians and sets church on fire

A Catholic priest and 13 other Christians were taken hostage, while a cathedral and Protestant-run college were among the buildings set on fire, when an extremist group which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State descended upon the city of Marawi in the southern Philippines on Tuesday, 23 May.

Three fires broke out, as around 100 armed members of the Maute group fired off their weapons, beheaded a police chief and erected the black flags of ISIS.

Twitter: Abhijit Majumder‏Verified account @abhijitmajumder

The abducted priest was identified as Fr. Teresito Suganob, vicar-general of the prelature of Marawi, by a local bishop, Edwin De la Peña, who told the Catholic news agency Fides: “Today is the feast of our Prelature, the feast of ‘Mary, help of Christians’. The faithful were in church to pray on the last day of the novena. The terrorists broke into St Mary’s Cathedral, took the hostages and led them to an unknown location. They entered the bishop’s residence and kidnapped [Fr. Suganob]. Then they set fire to the cathedral and the bishop’s residence. Everything is destroyed. We are dismayed.

“The terrorists have occupied the city. People are terrified and locked in the house. We are waiting for the army’s reaction. The important thing is to regain the city with the least possible bloodshed. Hostages have not been mentioned. We have activated our channels, the Church and Islamic leaders, and we hope to be able to negotiate soon so they are released safe and sound.

“…We also appeal to Pope Francis to pray for us and to ask the terrorists to release the hostages in the name of our common humanity. Violence and hatred lead only to destruction: we ask the faithful all over the world to pray together with us for peace.”

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in the Philippines, added that Fr. Suganob was “not a combatant. He was not bearing arms. He was a threat to none. His capture and that of his companions violates every norm of civilised conflict.”

Meanwhile, three of the buildings belonging to Dansalan College, which was established by the Protestant United Church of Christ, were burnt down yesterday. On its website, the college says it espouses the importance of interfaith relationship, as 95% of its students are Muslim, while 80% of its staff are Christian.

Reports say a hospital, the city’s jail, and several other establishments were also taken over by the gunmen.

Wcn Conflict News @NewsWcn

Martial law

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has reacted by cutting short a visit to Russia and imposing 60 days of martial law across the Mindanao region, where Marawi is situated. The 27 provinces and 33 cities in Mindanao make up roughly a third of the whole country.

Martial law gives more power to the military, including its ability to detain people for long periods without charge.

It is only the second time martial law has been imposed in the Philippines since the fall of former president Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

Human rights groups and religious leaders criticised the president’s decision, calling it “uncalled for” and warning that it would “inevitably result in intensified military operations, including aerial strikes, which can kill and affect hundreds of civilians”.

Sixty days is the maximum period allowed for martial law under the Philippines’ Constitution, but President Duterte said in a video released by the government that “if it would take a year to [overcome the insurgents], then we’ll do it”.

After his return home today (24 May), Mr. Duterte said at a press briefing: “If I think that the ISIS has already taken foothold also in Luzon, and terrorism is not really far behind, I might declare martial law throughout the country to protect the people.”

Christians concerned

Although the Philippines is a majority-Christian country, the region of Mindanao has a strong Muslim presence and is home to the Maute group, which stems from a violent Islamist movement called the Moro National Liberation Front, which sought independence for decades, hoping to create an independent Islamic state.

“On the ground, the people are asking for prayers,” a local source told World Watch Monitor. “The residents are threatened. They say homes are being trespassed, and that women not in hijabs are being taken away. The black flags are perched on top of a police car and a hospital. Social media screams with pleas for help, screenshots of texts of relatives on lockdown. One post says people must recite the shahada [Islamic profession of faith] when asked, else be killed.

“The fighting is said to spring from a hunt for Isnilon Hapilon, local Abu Sayaff leader tagged as the head of ISIS in the Philippines. Hapilon has not been caught.

“The military says things are in control now, and denies that ISIS was involved, saying the local Maute group was wreaking havoc only to get foreign attention.”

Source: World Watch Monitor



A volunteer pastor (left) prays for Zamboanga Mayor Beng Climaco-Salazar to lead this city with 1 million population into spiritual revival

By Weng Tarrazona, Special to ASSIST News Service


Christians storm the Zamboanga City Coliseum chanting “Jesus Reigns, Jesus Reigns.”

At the height of military offensives against the ISIS-linked Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in nearby Basilan and Sulu provinces, here in the Philippines, more than 10,000 Evangelical Christians representing different churches marched around Zamboanga City chanting “Jesus Reigns, Jesus Reigns.”

Zamboanga used to be the seat of US government in the Southern Philippines in the 1900s, but has become a subject of militant terror attacks since 1970s.

A day before this celebration, two suspected members of ASG were killed in in the city, when combined forces of the military and police were patrolling a seashore in the village of Sangali. Police authorities reported that, while they were patrolling the seashore to secure the city from fresh terror threats, the two ASG suspects rained the authorities with bullets that led Philippine soldiers to return fire killing the two ASG members on the spot.


Philippine soldiers take cover during a previous terror attack on Zamboanga City.

Police later recognized the ASG members as often involved in extortion and kidnapping activities in this city’s east coast. Recovered from the suspects were .45 caliber pistols and hand grenades.

Police authorities have raised the security level in the City as red alert status because of the reported of ASG presence in the city as result of the military offensives in nearby provinces.

But despite this security challenge, evangelical Christians, both young and old, braved any security threats and continued with their praise and worship songs, prayer for the city Mayor and other government officials.

City Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco, Vice Mayor Cesar Iturralde and Congressman Mannix Dalipe, also participated in the “Jesus Reigns” celebration.


A prayer request was flashed on the huge screen during the “Jesus Reigns” celebration to make Zamboanga free from crime and further terror attacks

The program opened with the blowing of the ram’s horn, also known as the shofar, and a musical worship songs from Don Moen tracks. The program also featured a musical skit and a hip hop Christian dance from university students.

In the later part of the program, the three city government officials were asked to go up the stage and the 10,000 Christian audience prayed for the city’s officials.

While on stage, Mayor Climaco declared in prayer that peace, and public safety would Reigns in Zamboanga City for God’s glory and it would be free from terror attacks.

Defying security threats, parents also brought their school-aged and pre-school children to witness once a year event in the city.

In 2013, around 400 Islamic separatists stormed this peaceful city and engaged a three-week firefight with 4,000 Philippine soldiers where a humanitarian crisis was declared in the city. The war has displaced more than 100,000 residents when 10,000 houses got burned by the war. Three years later, the city is still recovering from that fateful war. After the 2013 war, more bomb attacks were launched by suspected ASG terrorist group. But dozens of them have also been arrested in the city.

Source: Assist News Service