DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 01 December) – Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said there will be no let up in the military operations in Butig, Lanao del Sur against an ISIS-inspired terrorist group in the province.
“No let up on law enforcement operation until they are gone. This must be intensified either they will leave or be gone” Hataman said.
“It’s high time to address the security threats in the region with specific focus,” Hataman told reporters at the sidelines of the 3rd ARMM Local Government Unit Summit at the SMX Center here.
ARMM is composed of the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and the cities of Lamitan and Marawi.
Five provincial governors, two city mayors and 116 municipal mayors are attending the two–day summit that started Wednesday.
“No letup na tayo dito, the law enforcement operation is elective and focused only on one group, not the all-out war…The police and military must intensify this operation,” Hataman said. He described the Maute group as a “small group of bandits but determined jihadists.”
Hataman said what worries him is that the group’s recruits are getting younger and younger. “It’s more of a misguided, wrongly influenced ideology and is dangerous…and they are doing it in the name of Islam which is wrong.”
Hataman said if the group could attack a Presidential Security convoy how much more for ordinary people in the countryside. Duterte supporters in Marawi like Drieza Liningding, however, said the reported ambush on Tuesday was not true. “No ambush, no IED explosion,” Liningding said after visiting the supposed scene of the ambush.
Lanao del Sur Vice Governor Mamintal Adiong said President Duterte was right when he offered to talk with the Maute Group.
“I support President’s idea to talk to them sincerely first, meet their elders and leaders,” he said.
Apparently addressing the Maute Group during his visit in Butig, Lanao del Sur on Wednesday, Duterte said: “Ayaw kong makipag-away sa inyo. Ayaw kong makipagpatayan but please do not force my hand kasi may limit ho naman ang problema na ito.”
“There has to be a timeline. It could be forever. It could be during my term. It could be beyond my term. But there is certain limit. And when that limit comes, I’ll have to deal with you harshly,” he said.
Some summit participants suggested strengthening Madrasah system and bringing the Department of Education to the farthest community in ARMM to put an end to misinformation the group has been spreading in pursuit of their violent extremism.
Maguindanao Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu said education is vital for the young so they may not be misguided into believing a wrong interpretation of the Qur’an as he shared a personal experience of a child who lost both parents to armed conflict.
This is also a common idea raised from among local mayors who attended the summit like Mayor Abolais Manalao of Buldon, Maguindanao, once a stronghold of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s Camp Abubakar, a town near the border of Butig.
He said he would not allow local terror group to cross their town recruiting young Moros.
The ARMM is faced with threats from the militant Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao; the Abu Sayyaf Group in Sulu and the Maute terror group in Butig, Lanao del Sur, among others.
President Duterte is scheduled to address the ARMM officials during the closing of the summit Thursday where he is expected to highlight his war on drugs and terrorism, challenges that are both present in the ARMM. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera / MindaNews)