Hello, Rappler readers!
The head of a terrorism research center in the region reminds Philippine officials that the first step to fighting local terrorist groups effectively is to stop denying that they are connected to ISIS to begin with. Day 3 of clashes between government forces and the Maute Group on Thursday has left Marawi for a ghost town. Eleven soldiers and 2 cops have died. President Rodrigo Duterte has submitted his report on the declaration of martial law to the heads of both chambers of Congress. Meanwhile, the European Union says it doesn't have to beg the Philippines to accept the multi-milion-euro grants it offers, and can channel them instead to countries that would like to work with them. Russia, meanwhile, specified for the first time that part of the security assistance it offers the Philippines is in the area of "fighting drug trafficking."
Here are the big stories in the Philippines and around the world you shouldn't miss.
PH now 'epicenter' of ISIS operations in Southeast Asia – analyst
A leading terror analyst urged the Philippine government to admit Islamic State presence in the Philippines, as the country is now the global terror group's "epicenter" in Southeast Asia. Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore, said that former President Benigno Aquino III denied the presence of ISIS in the country, and pointed out that President Rodrigo Duterte has at least acknowledged that ISIS has reached the Philippines. "Those who are saying that do not understand that for IS to build a presence, Arabs, Iraqis, Syrians do not have to come all the way from Syria or the Middle East to the Philippines. It's simply that local groups embrace IS ideology and IS methodology.... You have to now fight this group" Gunaratna said.
Marawi clashes death toll: 11 soldiers, 2 cops, 31 terrorists
At least 6 soldiers were killed on Thursday, May 25, as government troops continued to clear Marawi City following attacks by members of the Maute Group and the Abu Sayyaf. This brings to 11 the number of military casualties since clashes began Tuesday. At least and 2 policemen have died as well. The Western Mindanao Command, in a statement to the media, said that 15 from the enemy side were killed after a two-hour battle on Thursday, bringing to 31 the Maute Group members who have been killed. See images of explosions, fire, and trapped residents on Day 3 of the Marawi siege on Thursday.
Just before 48-hour deadline lapses, Duterte submits martial law report to Congress
As mandated by the 1987 Constitution, President Rodrigo Duterte submitted to Congress his report on the declaration of martial law in Mindanao to Congress just before the 48-hour window closed on Thursday night, May 25. It was received by Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who were both in Davao City with the President for a Cabinet meeting.
EU won't 'beg' Manila to accept multi-million-euro grants
Reacting to the Philippines' rejection of 250 million euros or P13.85 billion in new European Union grants due to the regional bloc's alleged interference in local affairs, visiting EU official Gunnar Wiegand said, "We do not believe that we have to, in any way, beg, to ask the Philippines, 'Please, can you take our money?'" The managing director for Asia and the Pacific of the European External Action Service (the equivalent of the Philippines' foreign affairs department) said they are "willing to continue to cooperate with the Philippines" and "hope that any misunderstandings can be clarified soon," but pointed out that rejected funds can always go to other countries that would welcome them.
Russia to help PH in combatting drug trafficking
The Philippines can count on Russia's highly experienced intelligence service and security agencies to help in its fight against illegal drugs. This was one of the assurances made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Thursday, May 25, in Moscow. The two held a bilateral meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mansion a day after Philippine and Russian officials sealed 10 deals on cooperation in various fields, including defense, nuclear power development, trade, transportation, agriculture, and cultural exchange.