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New President is hoped to thwart emergence of ISIS in Phillipines

Duterte fights ordinary and organized crime conventionally and unconventionally and he is likely to counter terrorism in a similar manner.

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Rise of a new era in Philippines, Wikimedia commons

There is great hope among Muslim communities in the Philippines that President-elect Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte will restore peace and stability in the south.

Duterte, the longtime mayor of Davao City on the southern island of Mindanao, has deep ties to the insurgency-stricken region.

If there is anybody who wishes that this bloody problem would end soon, it is I because I am both Moro and Christian,” Duterte remarked during the lead-up to his presidential campaign.

As mayor he has maintained peace in Davao City but, as president, he will face a greater challenge in the south, especially with the emergence of groups supporting the Islamic State (IS).

Duterte wants to have peace in Mindanao and will reach out to Muslim groups and the Communist Party of the Philippines. The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rallied behind his candidacy, and he also reached out to the leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

He also has opened communications with the Communist Party of the Philippines. Duterte, in fact, called the party’s founding leader, Jose Maria Sison, before the election.

IS support groups mount attacks

In the immediate run-up to the presidential election on May 9, IS Philippines, led by Isnilon Hapilon (a former deputy of the Abu Sayyaf Group), attacked a Philippine Army outpost in Maluso (a town in southern Basilan province).

In a communique distributed on Telegram and Twitter on Tuesday, the group reported that a group of fighters had attacked an army position in Tobijan village, engaging in a clash with the soldiers and killing one and wounding another.

This is the second official claim of an attack by the IS in the Philippines, according to SITE Intelligence Group. On April 13, IS’s branch in the Philippines claimed it had killed nearly 100 Philippine troops in strikes over a period of a few days, but the group exaggerated its successes.

IS Central claimed the attack in Tobijan and referred to the group mounting the attack as “Islamic State Philippines.” This is further evidence that IS has established a branch in the Philippines, a threat underestimated by the government of the Philippines.

Islamic State Lanao, another group that supports Islamic State but is not accepted by IS Central, meanwhile claimed responsibility for bombing a transmission tower in Lanao del Sur, Mindanao, on May 4.

Related article: Islamic State spreads its wing in South East Asia

Duterte’s thinking

More than any other leader Duterte understands the threat posed by IS. Until now, the government in Manila and Filipino analysts have characterized the IS link to Filipino groups as wishful thinking and one sided.

Without underestimating the threat, Duterte is likely to work with MILF and MNLF to fight both Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), IS Philippines and IS Lanao. A practical man, Duterte will work with the MILF and MNLF to restore peace and stability.

He is tough. Duterte fights ordinary and organized crime conventionally and unconventionally, and he is likely to do this with terrorism, too.

With time Duterte will realize that MILF and MNLF are serious about finding a solution within the united Philippines while ASG and IS support groups in the Philippines are not.

The ASG and IS will not negotiate genuinely. They will have to be contained, isolated and eliminated.

And Duterte is likely to take them on. He will launch an uncompromising military campaign after asking them to join the peace process.

MNLF and ASG have links: at least a few factions of ASG are likely to embrace his offer. A dealmaker, Duterte will reach out to them as well.

He will likely be an ideal president although the IS group in Mindanao will likely become one his burdens. I think he will employ the full force of the law to quell the threat of IS,” a former ASG member told me.

Hopes for peace

While Duterte’s grandmother was a full-blooded Maranao, his eldest son Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte married a Tausug.

IS has already built a support group in the Lanao area, where Maranaos live, and in Basilan, where Tausugs live. Proud of his Muslim lineage, Duterte generated support from Muslim leaders.

Abulajid Estino, a former assemblyman from the Mindanao region, said: “it was the first time that a leader with genuine Bangsamoro blood had the potential to become president of the Philippines”.

Duterte, the man from Mindanao who will be sworn in as president on June 30, is in a unique position to manage the violence and root out terrorism in the southern Philippines.

The threat will decline if Duterte’s government can either pass the basic law to create an autonomous region or grant federalism. Passing the basic law to create the autonomous region will reduce the reservoir of Muslim unhappiness that militants are harnessing.

A former member of the ASG said to me: “This is perhaps the reason why I also voted for him last Monday … hoping that he can make not only Mindanao but the entire country peaceful.

Man with a vision

The Moro conflict is one of the world’s longest conflicts. Such conflicts are intractable. Today, with IS making inroads to the Philippines, the problem is even more complex. Political will remains at the heart of making a difference.

In the lead-up to the election in the Philippines, local threat groups that support IS stepped up their operations.

They are likely to test Duterte’s patience. Duterte should not overreact. However, he should act too.

Otherwise, the threat will remain in the Philippines and may grow with implications for the rest of Southeast Asia. Duterte has the vision and mission to make a difference. (Benarnews)

Next Story

Fossil Bones, Teeth Found in Philippines Reveal Long-Lost Cousin of Humans

The main exodus of our own species from Africa that all of today's non-African people are descended from took place around 60,000 years ago

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Right upper teeth of an individual of the newly identified species Homo luzonensis, found in Callao Cave on Luzon Island, the Philippines, are seen in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters April 10, 2019. VOA

Fossil bones and teeth found in the Philippines have revealed a long-lost cousin of modern people, which evidently lived around the time our own species was spreading from Africa to occupy the rest of the world.

It’s yet another reminder that, although Homo sapiens is now the only surviving member of our branch of the evolutionary tree, we’ve had company for most of our existence.

And it makes our understanding of human evolution in Asia “messier, more complicated and whole lot more interesting,” says one expert, Matthew Tocheri of Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

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The discovery of a new human relative on Luzon might be “smoke from a much, much bigger fire,” he said. VOA

In a study released Wednesday by the journal Nature, scientists describe a cache of seven teeth and six bones from the feet, hands and thigh of at least three individuals. They were recovered from Callao Cave on the island of Luzon in the northern Philippines in 2007, 2011 and 2015. Tests on two samples show minimum ages of 50,000 years and 67,000 years.

The main exodus of our own species from Africa that all of today’s non-African people are descended from took place around 60,000 years ago.

Analysis of the bones from Luzon led the study authors to conclude they belonged to a previously unknown member of our “Homo” branch of the family tree. One of the toe bones and the overall pattern of tooth shapes and sizes differ from what’s been seen before in the Homo family, the researchers said.

They dubbed the creature Homo luzonensis.

It apparently used stone tools and its small teeth suggest it might have been rather small-bodied, said one of the study authors, Florent Detroit of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris.

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More such discoveries will probably emerge with further work in the region, which is under-studied, he said in an email. Wikimedia

H. luzonensis lived in eastern Asia at around the same time as not only our species but other members of the Homo branch, including Neanderthals, their little-understood Siberian cousins the Denisovans, and the diminutive “hobbits” of the island of Flores in Indonesia.

There’s no sign that H. luzonensis encountered any other member of the Homo group, Detroit said in an email. Our species isn’t known to have reached the Philippines until thousands of years after the age of the bones, he said.

But some human relative was on Luzon more than 700,000 years ago, as indicated by the presence of stone tools and a butchered rhino dating to that time, he said. It might have been the newfound species or an ancestor of it, he said in an email.

Detroit said it’s not clear how H. luzonensis is related to other species of Homo. He speculated that it might have descended from an earlier human relative, Homo erectus, that somehow crossed the sea to Luzon.

H. erectus is generally considered the first Homo species to have expanded beyond Africa, and it plays a prominent role in the conventional wisdom about evolution outside that continent. Some scientists have suggested that the hobbits on the Indonesian island are descended from H. erectus.

Tocheri, who did not participate it the new report, agreed that both H. luzonensis and the hobbits may have descended from H. erectus. But he said the Philippines discovery gives new credence to an alternate view: Maybe some unknown creature other than H. erectus also slipped out of Africa and into Europe and Asia, and later gave rise to both island species.

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The main exodus of our own species from Africa that all of today’s non-African people are descended from took place around 60,000 years ago. Wikimedia

After all, he said in an interview, remains of the hobbits and H. luzonensis show a mix of primitive and more modern traits that differ from what’s seen in H. erectus. They look more like what one what might find in Africa 1.5 to 2.5 million years ago, and which might have been carried out of that continent by the mystery species, he said.

The discovery of a new human relative on Luzon might be “smoke from a much, much bigger fire,” he said.

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Michael Petraglia of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, said the Luzon find “shows we still know very little about human evolution, particularly in Asia.”

More such discoveries will probably emerge with further work in the region, which is under-studied, he said in an email. (VOA)