Military welcomes support from rebel groups in fight vs terrorism

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/29 May) – The Eastern Mindanao Command (EMC) is willing to accept support from the Moro rebels and even from the New People’s Army (NPA) should the military need reinforcement to combat the Abu Sayyaf and Maute group in Mindanao.

EMC commander Lt. General Rey Leonardo B. Guerrero told a press conference Monday they welcome any support that would help the military’s fight against terrorism.

Guerrero issued the statement after President Rodrigo R. Duterte announced during his visit in Sulu Saturday that he is willing to recruit the rebels and give them the same benefits government soldiers are getting.

“We really welcome any form of support or assistance that could be provided to the Armed Forces of the Philippines to quell terrorism and rebellion that’s taking place in Marawi City. As to how these forces – MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) – will be operationalized, it is up to the operational commander in the area,” Guerrero said.

During the “Mindanao Hour” at the Press Briefing Room in Malacanang Monday, Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said there are protocols and procedures that have to be followed in integrating former rebels into the AFP.

Marawi City falls under the jurisdiction of the Western Mindanao Command under Maj. Gen. Carlito Galvez.

Guerrero said they requested for additional battalions to secure Davao City.

But he added it may take awhile before their request would be granted due to the current situation in Marawi City, where government troops were still battling the Maute group.

The siege in Marawi erupted on May 23 and was used by the President to declare martial law in Mindanao.

During the second week of May, the 16th Infantry Battalion arrived in Davao from Sulu, supposedly to join the counterinsurgency operations of the military in the outskirts of the city.

“In the meantime, we are making do with the available units that we have here. And in fact, we are just trying to realign our forces here to e able to adequately cover the security requirements of the city,” Guerrero said.

He said that they would also bank on the support of the people in monitoring and reporting “suspicious development taking place in the peripheral barangays most especially coastal barangays.”

“Very porous ang borders natin. What is more important is for us to be mindful of the fact that we need to work together to make sure that Davao City remains safe and secure,” he said.

He said the AFP has maximized its visibility in Davao City through checkpoints and patrols in hope of deterring “enemy plans to stage terroristic action in the city.”

City Mayor Sara Duterte ordered a lockdown in the city immediately after the declaration of martial but later replaced it with a “hold and secure” order with an accompanying 30-point guideline to residents.

She said the guidelines are necessary to prevent the possible entry of terrorists.

“Hindi natin alam kung sino ang kalaban natin sa loob. (We do not who our enemies are inside Davao) Violence may escalate inside Davao City or problems may come in to Davao City,” she said.

The guidelines cover the activities of residents and tourists, and new requirements for business establishments. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)