DNA test confirms death of last Marawi siege terrorist leader Abu Dar

Marje Pelayo   •   April 15, 2019   •   1249

Maute-Isis leader Abu Dar

MANILA, Philippines – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday (April 15) said a DNA test from the United States authorities confirmed the death of Maute-ISIS leader Abu Dar.

“It is confirmed. It is Abu Dar’s remains,” Lorenzana said in a text message to UNTV News.

Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., Commander of the 103rd IB Haribon Brigade in an interview said the DNA results are indeed conclusive.

“The results were given to us by our US counterparts. We were assisted by the United States in confirming the DNA sample that they got from the cadaver of Abu Dar with those of his sons. So, yes. There is positive confirmation that Abu Dar, who was killed during the operation conducted last March 14,” Col. Brawner said.

The official said Abu Dar was the last remaining leader of the Maute-ISIS group who planned and staged the Marawi siege.

He was among the 10 terrorist leaders shown in a recovered video footage planning for the plot in Marawi City along with ISIS emir Isnilon Hapilon.

For two years, he had been in hiding and it was only in March this year that the military was able to neutralize him.

“This means that the Daulah Islamiyah, the new name of the Maute-ISIS group, will finally be ended with the death of their leader,” the military commander said.

As for his replacement, Brawner said the next in rank to Abu Dar is Abu Zacharia, a little-known Maute leader who, unlike his predecessor, is not a religious leader and “doesn’t have full influence in the entire group.”

Secretary Lorenzana, meanwhile, said they have no information yet as to who is currently leading the remaining Maute terrorists who are still in hiding.

“Well, for now his group is leaderless. We are monitoring who will replace Dar,” Lorenzana said.

Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP) welcomes the confirmation of the reported death of Abu Dar, whose complete name was Owaydah Marohombsar.

“This is a significant development in the government’s continuing campaign against terrorism and domestic threat groups,” PNP Chief Police General Oscar Albayalde said in a statement.

Government security forces clashed with members of the Maute terror group on March 14 in Tubaran, Lanao del Sur.

Abu Dar was among the five terrorists killed in the said encounter, the PNP Chief said. – Marje Pelayo

Senators hit Chinese envoy: Filipinos in China are not spies

Robie de Guzman   •   August 19, 2019

Senate Committee on Foreign Relations organizational meeting and briefing by the Department of Foreign Affairs on Monday, August 19, 2019.

MANILA, Philippines – Several senators on Monday slammed Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua over his remark that Filipino workers in China might be suspected of being spies.

At a Committee on Foreign Relations Organizational meeting, Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel assured the Chinese envoy that Filipinos in China are not spies but are there to earn a living.

“Let me assure China, there are no Filipino spies in China. Kaya wag silang mag-alala. Ang mga Pilipino po na nasa China ay para po sa pagta-trabaho,” he said when asked for his comment on the issue.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier expressed concern over the location of the Philippine Online Gaming Operations (POGO) hubs near military camps, saying these Chinese-dominated casinos could be used for espionage purposes.

In response to Lorenzana’s remark, Zhao reportedly told Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo that they may also be inclined to look at Filipino workers in China as spies.

For Senator Risa Hontiveros, the Chinese Ambassador’s statement could be considered a threat.

“Ito ay maituturing na banta sa buhay at kabuhayan ng ating mga kababayang OFW sa Tsina. It is a veiled threat in response to our simple and reasonable desire to strictly regulate Chinese POGO operations in the country and ensure the country’s national security,” Hontiveros said.

“Our OFWs are not spies. They have no history of espionage. Filipinos abroad are valued both for their skill and unique blend of hard work and care. They pose no threat. In fact, in China, our workers are employed in areas that are nowhere near military and security facilities. To insinuate that they could be committing espionage is not only insulting but plainly false,” she added.

Senate Minority Franklin Drilon earlier called Zhao’s remark as “absurd and beyond the realm of possibility.”

He added that Lorenzana is a competent official and his job is to advise authorities on a matter of security.

“He has nothing but good intentions. We should defer to him,” he said.

Drilon further stated the possibility that POGO workers could be used for information gathering is not a remote possibility.

“It’s convenient when there is a need for it. Why should we leave that chance unchecked?” he said, adding that he supports Lorenzana’s proposal to move POGO hubs farther away from military camps.

Hontiveros also said the Lorenzana did not accuse Chinese workers employed in POGO hubs as spies, but merely pointed out the proximity of the firms to military camps which can be exploited by unscrupulous people to undermine the country’s security.

The senator also recalled Lorenzana’s point that Chinese firms are mandated by the Chinese government to assist in intelligence collection for their government.

“Foreign workers, including Chinese workers, who fully comply with our laws and respect the rights of Filipino workers are welcome in our country. We demand the same from our OFWs working in and hosted by foreign countries. However, our country also reserves the right to ensure the safety of its citizens and protection of its state secrets,” Hontiveros said.

To address this issue, Hontiveros said there should be a thorough review of all Chinese POGOs near military installations and camps, adding that the defense department “must make a comprehensive appraisal and provide necessary proposals.”

She also suggested for stricter regulation of the POGO industry to ensure that revenues are monitored, taxes are paid and domestic facilities are not used to commit crimes.

Hontiveros added that there should be pressure on the Chinese government to commit more to work closely with the Philippine authorities in regulating the entry of illegal and undocumented Chinese workers into the country.

Drilon backs Lorenzana’s bid to transfer POGOs away from military camps

Robie de Guzman   •   August 19, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Monday expressed support for the proposal of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to transfer the Philippine Online Gaming Operations (POGO) hubs away from military camps and other vital installations.

In a statement, Drilon said he shares the concerns raised by Lorenzana over the growing presence of Chinese-dominated online gaming hubs and the risks that its proximity to military camps pose.

“I support Sec. Lorenzana’s recommendation on POGO location. The security aspect is something that we cannot just brush aside. I cannot understand why we cannot have POGO locations farther away from military camps,” Drilon said in a TV interview on Monday.

Drilon also described the Chinese embassy’s statement that overseas Filipino workers in China may also be suspected of spying as “absurd and beyond the realm of possibility.”

“Sec. Lorenzana is a competent official and his job is to advise us on matter of security. He has nothing but good intentions. We should defer to him,” he added.

Drilon further stated the possibility that POGO workers could be used for information gathering is not a remote possibility.

“We don’t know. Maybe not right now, but it gives them the opportunity when there’s a need for it. It’s convenient when there is a need for it. Why should we leave that chance unchecked?” he said.

The lawmaker also said there is no way Filipino workers in China could be engaged in spying activities for the Philippines as they are there to earn a living.

Drilon also pointed out how Filipinos were deprived of opportunities to earn a living in the POGO industry, which employs thousands of Chinese workers.

When asked if he would support a total ban of POGO, Drilon replied with: “I would like to think there is certainly great merit into looking at the possibility of closing down POGOs. I am against gambling.”

READ: Malacañang: No risk in POGO hubs near military camps

Malacañang earlier said it sees nothing wrong with the location of POGO hubs near military installations and the creation of self-contained communities of foreign workers as long as it doesn’t violate the law.

However, the Palace said it would defer to National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon to assess any security issue being posed by the foreign operated online gaming operations.

Recto Bank collision an ‘accident’, not armed attack – Lorenzana

Marje Pelayo   •   June 19, 2019

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana

MANILA, Philippines – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana maintained that the incident in Recto Bank involving the Chinese vessel, Yuemaobinyu 42212 and the Filipino fishing vessel, F/B GEM-VER 1 on June 9 was not an armed attack but only an accident.

“I think it’s just an accident based on the information we got from some of the crew. Siguro hindi rin sinasadya ng kabila (Perhaps it was not intentional),” Lorenzana said.

Since it was such, Lorenzana said he agrees with Malacañang that the Philippines cannot insist its mutual defense treaty with the United States to deal with the present issue because such treaty applies only to armed conflicts.

Lorenzana was the first to disclose the report on a Chinese vessel hitting and sinking a Filipino fishing vessel in the contested area in the West Philippine Sea.

The Defense Chief condemned the Chinese crewmen for abandoning the 22 Filipino fishermen adrift at sea while struggling to survive.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), through Secretary Teddy Locsin, has already elevated the matter to the International Maritime Office (IMO).

But though Lorenzana supported Locsin for that matter, the Defense Secretary said the Philippine government can only act once all the needed information is gathered specifically China’s official statement on the incident.

For now, the government is pursuing a case against the Chinese crewmen for abandoning the Filipino fishermen which, the Secretary said, is a violation of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to which the Philippines and China are both signatories.

While waiting for China’s side on the matter, Secretary Lorenzana appeals to the public to be patient as the government works on resolving the issue while extending assistance to the affected fishermen.

“I ask our countrymen to be patient dahil lalabas naman talaga ang totoo kapag nakuha na natin ang lahat ng (the truth will come out once we have all) information so that we can move on from this,” he said. (with details from April Cenedoza)

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