Maute patriarch denies involvement in terrorism

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 06 June)  — The 67-year old patriarch of the Maute clan and alleged top leader of the terrorist Maute Group has denied involvement in terrorism or with the group founded by his sons Omar and Abdullah.

In an interview with reporters at the Davao City Police Office (DCPO) Tuesday, the Maute patriarch claimed he has not seen his sons for some time now.  “Ngayon taon hindi ko maalala (This year, I can no longer remember),” he said.

Cayamora Maute, father of Maute Group leaders Omar and Abdula Maute, is assisted by a police officer before the media presentation at Camp Domingo Leonor in Davao City on Tuesday. The elder Maute was arrested at the joint checkpoint of Task Force Davao and police operatives in Sirawan, Toril, Davao City on Tuesday morning, 6 June 2017. MINDANEWS PHOTO

“Hindi ako kasama sa grupo nila. Kapangalan lang (I’m not part of the group. We only have the same surname),” Maute explained.

He said he left Marawi on Sunday, Day 13 of the clashes between government forces and the Maute Group.

He said he wants a ceasefire between government and the Maute Group.

“Walang kapalit ang katahimikan sa Lanao, kailangan walang gulo kaya kung mangyari, may longer ceasefire (Nothing can replace peace in Lanao del Sur, there should be no fighting. That’s why, if needed, there should be a longer ceasefire),” he said.

An emissary of the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s “Peace Corridor” on Snday managed to get the Maute Group to agree to a four-hour ceasefire to allow safe passage for trapped civilians. At least 134 civilians were rescued Sunday morning but nearly 2,000 civilians still remain trapped in the battleground.

Pressed by reporters if he wants his sons to surrender, he said, “anong ibig sabihin ng sumuko? (What do you mean by surrender?).”

Maute and his second wife, Kongan Alfonso Balawag; their daughter, Norjannah Balawag Maute, and her alleged partner Benzarali Tingao; and the driver, Aljon Salazar Ismael were arrested at a checkpoint in Task Force Davao in Sirawan, Toril, here on-board a black Toyota Grandia.

Cayamora Maute, 67, father of the leaders of the Maute Group, Omar and Abdula, inside the Davao City Police Office on 6 June 2017. Cayamora was arrested at the Sirawan, Toril checkpoint of Task Force Davao. Also taken from their vehicle were cash, a .45 caliber gun, ammunition, and a fragmentation grenade. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Driver Salazar also denied links with the Maute Group.

He said he picked up Benzarali and his partner, Norjannah, at Hotel Filipino in Cotabato.

Bensarali, his college friend, then instructed him to go to Sultan Kudarat to pick up another passengers, who turned out to be the Maute patriarch and his second wife, Balawag. They were supposed to proceed to Tagum City.

But upon reaching Sultan Kudarat, he said the instruction changed and they were to go to Davao City instead. Tagum City is 56 kilometers away from Davao City.

Salazar claimed he did not have any idea about his passengers’ affiliations.

“Had I known who they were, I would bring them to the police myself,” he said.

In a press conference, Brig. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, martial law spokesperson for Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom), said Maute himself confirmed his identity and that he is the father of Omar and Abdullah

They were on board a black Toyota Grandia when arrested at the Task Force Davao’s checkpoint in Sirawan. Police recovered alleged falsified identifications (IDs) with different names that belong to Maute  P363,000 cash, grenade, and .45 caliber pistol.

“This apprehension of Cayamora Maute together with his companion is a big blow to the Maute-Isis terrorist group. As a patriarch of the Maute clan, Mr. Maute is considered as one of the brains of the Maute-Isis terror group,” Gapay said.  (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)