Ex-Marawi mayor subject to arrest again due to “vehement objections” from AFP, PNP, local officials

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 22 August) — Cleared on August 16, subject to arrest again effective August 22.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, acting as martial law administrator, revoked on August 22 the clearance he gave former Marawi mayor Omar Solitario and his two sons on August 16, citing “vehement objections”  from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP),  Philippine National Police (PNP) and local leaders in Marawi and Lanao Sur.

Lorenzana issued a certification on August 16 removing Solitario and his sons from the list of persons to be arrested for alleged rebellion under Arrest Orders number 1 and 2 issued on May 29 and June 5, respectively, although Lorenzana told MindaNews on August 19 that what he gave Solitario was “conditional clearance on the recommendation” of Secretary Jesus Dureza, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana surveys the firearms captured from the Maute Group which should have been presented to President Rodrigo Duterte had he arrived in Campo Ranao, Marawi City on 8 June 2017. The President’s trip was cancelled due to “foul weather,” said  Lorenzana who was accompanied to the camp by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. and Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza (in blue checkered polo). MindaNews file photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

“I told him (Dureza) it is conditional. That we are not stopping the gathering of info about (Solitario’s) alleged connection to the Mautes and illegal drugs,” he said.

The name of Solitario, Marawi mayor from 2001 to 2007, was also among those on the list of 163 alleged drug personalities  that President Rodrigo Duterte read during a wake at the Eastern Mindanao Command here on August 7 last year.

Recently, he was linked to the Maute terrror group that goverment forces have been fighting in Marawi City since May 23. President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law, citing rebellion in Marawi,  hours after the first clash in Barangay Basak Malutlut in the country’s lone Islamic City.

Planned meeting

Dureza on August 22 announced on his Facebook wall that Lorenzana had revoked the clearance.

He said that “after a speedy review made by the Department of National Defense on the basis of the inclusion of former Marawi Mayor Omar Solitario and his two sons in the list to be arrested pursuant to the declaration of martial law, Secretary Delfin Lorenzana found basis for their being retained in the arrest list and ordered the cancellation of their temporary clearance.”

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza. MindaNews file photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Dureza explained that the clearance he recommended and was initially granted by Lorenzana “was intended in our efforts to facilitate their planned meeting with Secretary Lorenzana and be allowed safe passage through martial law checkpoints.”

Lorenzana told MindaNews it was Dureza who wanted to talk to Solitario.

“Vehement objections”

Dureza on Saturday said he told Lorenzana that Solitario “had been doing a lot before vs extremism” and that he even wrote a book about how to deal with it, activated a radio station with the help of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process to “counter extremism even before Marawi happened.”

But Dureza on August 22 said Lorenzana sent him a message that “based on the vehement objections of the AFP, PNP and local leaders in Marawi & Lanao Sur,” he had “recalled/cancelled the clearance I gave to Solitario and his two sons effective today. They are now subject to arrest.”

“We submit to the judgment call of Defense Secretary Lorenzana,” Dureza said.

Lorenzana told MindaNews in a text message late Tuesday afternoon that “dili man ako ang interesado makigstorya niya (I am not the one interested in talking to Solitario). What is there for me and Solitario to talk? Mag surrender muna siya” (He should surrender first).

“It was Dureza who wants to utilize him kaya humingi siya ng clearance, only to find out that the military, police and Muslim leaders don’t want them released for complicity in the Marawi siege and illegal drugs,” Lorenzana said.

“The error was rectified,” he added. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)