Ex-mayor of Marawi removed from list of persons to be arrested for rebellion

UPDATED 3 p.m.20 Aug

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 20 Aug) — A former mayor of Marawi City has been removed from the list of persons ordered arrested under martial law for alleged rebellion.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, in his capacity as Martial Law Administrator, told MindaNews Saturday that he gave former mayor Omar Solitario “conditional clearance on the recommendation of OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process) Secretary Jess Dureza.”

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

Lorenzana issued a certification on August 16 that Omar Macabalang Ali, also known as Solitario Ali Salic and Omar Solitario Ali, “is removed from Martial Law Administrator Arrest Order Numbers 01 and 02″ issued on May 29 and June 5, respectively.”

The certification, like the Arrest Orders, was issued to the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Chief of the Philippine National Police, Commandant of the Philippine Coast Guard, Direct of the National Bureau of Investigation and Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration.

On Saturday night, Dureza shared with MindaNews his text message to Lorenzana. “Well, Omar (Solitario) had been doing a lot before vs extremism. He wrote a book about how to deal with it, he activated a radio station with OPAPP’s help to counter extremism even before Marawi happened,” Dureza said.

He added that when Solitario “met with President Duterte early on and volunteered to help, I engaged him (in) OPAPP with a consultancy.”

He recalled that Solitario “even volunteered to help talk to the Mautes as his brod was related by affinity to the Mautes.”

He said they “dissuaded him” as the situation then was “fluid.”

Dureza added that when Solitario’s name “was in the watch list, I revoked his consultancy.”

He also said that when Solitario was in hiding, ‘he continued to provide inputs on how to address the problem. And he committed to help now. So let’s see if he delivers otherwise we can put him back on the list.”

On Sunday afternoon, the OPAPP emailed a seven-paragraph statement, where he repeated what he said in his text message to Lorenzana.

He added  Solitario, after he was named in the arrest orders, informed him that he left Marawi City “and stayed in a safe sanctuary outside the city but he kept in touch making suggestions on how to deal with the developing incidents.”

Dureza said Solitario was “distressed” with the inclusion of his name in the arrest orders.

“At one time, when the President was in Cagayan de Oro monitoring Marawi, I arranged his phone call with the President. The President told him over the phone that he instead should talk to me. So I continued handling him,” Dureza added.

He said he was later informed that there was an arrangement for Solitario to meet with Lorenzana “to discuss how he could help government” and because his name was still in the arrest order and in order to enable him to attend the meeting with Lorenzana in Iligan or Marawi, “I recommended that a clearance from the SND (Secretary of National Defense) be issued to allow him  to safely  travel to meet the SND for the purpose considering there were AFP checkpoints and his name was on the arrest list.”

Dureza said he spoke with Lorenzana and was told  that a clearance for Solitario “was being issued, including his two sons.” Dureza said he made no recommendation for Solitario’s sons “as I did not know them and their activities.”

He said that during a Cabinet Security Cluster meeting in Camp Aguinaldo, he was furnished copies of the clearances signed by Lorenzana and that he
“e-mailed the copies to former iligan Mayor Franklin Quijano to pass them on to Omar Solitario.”

He said he “also later called Solitario that he should directly arrange the planned meeting with SND as OPAPP does not get involved in AFP operational matters..”

The Marawi Crisis entered Day 90 on Sunday. Clashes between government forces and the Maute Group and its allies started on May 23.

On Solitario’s alleged involvement in illegal drugs, “if there is evidence, then he has to face the charges,” Dureza said on Saturday night.

Before his name was listed under Arrest Orders 1 and 2,  Solitario was also on Duterte’s list of persons allegedly involved in illegal drugs which the President read during a wake at a military camp in Davao City on August 7 last year.

Solitario denied allegations he was engaged in the illegal drugs trade.

During the first martial law under then President Ferdinand Marcos, Solitario was a commander of the Moro National Liberation.

Arrest Orders 1 and 2 contained a list of 324 persons, 36 identified only by their aliases. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindNews)