BANGSAMORO SPEAKS: On the Marawi Siege and the people unjustly implicated

(Posted by former Marawi City mayor Omar Solitario Ali on his Facebook page on 17 March 2019. Solitario was a commander of the Moro National Liberation Front during the Marcos dictatorship, studied Law and was elected mayor for two terms from 2001 to 2007. He ran again for mayor of Marawi in 2016 and in 2019 but lost. He passed away on April 8, 2022). 

 I, Omar Solitario Ali, have nothing to do with the Mautes of Butig. It was just a coincidence that my brother Pre Salic was married about 35 years ago to Rasmia Romato who happened to be a first cousin of the Maute Brothers. That was before the Maute Brothers were born. Those guys were infected with the extremists virus perhaps just five years ago, but the greater number of their relatives abhor their idea of extremism. 

The Maute Brothers were not at all extremists before their foreign studies in Egypt for Omarkayyam Matue and in Jordan for Abdullah Maute. But they were never close to Pre’s family and when it was confirmed that they became terrorists, Pre made it a point to warn his children not to have anything to do with those guys. He was publicly telling his relatives that those guys will bring destruction to their family, to Butig, and perhaps to Lanao. 

I met the Maute brothers in Butig when I was sent by Sec Jesus Dureza to talk to them, the day the president visited Butig, and I did talk to them but it flowed very confrontational – Omar conciliatory but Abdullah and myself debated very heatedly on their concept of Islam and social change. 

If I was not an elder brother on struggle in the early 60s which they recognized and if we have no relation by affinity, they might have killed me right there and then. I went home, I gave up the idea of convincing them to stop fighting and to give the President a chance to prove he will cause shift to federalism, which will accommodate their demand for a society substantially Islamic. 

I prepared a report to OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process) saying No More but my Ulama friends said I should not just give up on them. The Alims volunteered to go and talk to them into sitting down with a government team and, surprisingly, after three days, they reported OK. They designated a team – Engr. Kayamura Maute (the father who died in prison), Omarkayyam Maute (dead in Marawi), and Abu Dhhar (their new leader in Lanao now and I believed he will not accept to be branded Maute so that the Maute Group is practically dead) to talk to the government. Unfortunately, OPAPP conveyed to me that AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) disliked the idea. 

The death of Alim Azis Mimbantas and the MILF decision to replace him with somebody not acceptable to some of the Romatos who are members of the MILF, exacerbated the inclination of the Maute Brothers to organize their own Maute Group and bring home the problem to Butig. 

When the siege started on May 23, 2017, we were having a meeting in Chali Beach in Gusa, Cagayan de Oro and joining us in that meeting were 10 old comrades in the MNLF, 10 high ranking officials of the MILF (including Dr. Safrullah Dipatuan, Janati Mimbantas, some of their Base Commanders …) many Ulama, Professionals,  and youth leaders. Our agenda was specifically searching ways to oppose and contain the spread of the radical and destructive Islamic State  ideology. I think parts of the minutes of the meeting were forwarded to OPAPP, I being a consultant of OPAPP that time. 

For four years, I was the main speaker in a regular Sunday night program aired by the DXSR Radio Salam (repaired to be revived and made functional by a grant from OPAPP months before the Marawi Siege) where the menace of extremism and the need to stick to the Authentic Islam was our regular topic. The two way radio networks or frequencies in Lanao del Sur hooked up our Sunday programs to widen its reach and coverage.

I studied authentic Islam and the menace of extremism for decades and I believe I am a strong pillar of moderation in religion. I am 67 years old. I finished law school. I have MDM degree from AIM (Asian Institute of Management). I used to be a PA Major in the Reserved Command, I have 46 grandchildren. I used to be the Regional President of PDP-Laban, I cannot be and I will not be a terrorist.

I was never accorded a day in court, or the right to confront my accusers, and I can never agree that our Department of National Defense  can just come up with a listing of hundreds of names (out of unverified / unclassified raw intel reports contaminated with local political feuds) and that will make those listed as fugitives … What is happening to our country?