DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 05 Feb) — The Maute Group is now considered “virtually decimated” as it has “no capability to wage war and it will take years before they could recover, if at all,” Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez told MindaNews in a telephone interview.
Galvez said only around 30 remnants of the Maute Group under Abu Dar have been monitored and he is confident that sustained military operations would “completely eliminate them” soon.
The Maute Group and other ISIS/Daesh-inspired allies laid siege on Marawi City on May 23 last year after a failed attempt by government forces to arrest its ally, Abu Sayyaf’s Isnilon Hapilon.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law some eight hours after the clashes started in the country’s lone Islamic City.
The siege lasted for five months and on October 17, a day after Hapilon and Omar Maute were killed by government troops, Duterte declared Marawi “liberated from the terrorist influence.” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana terminated all combat operations in the city on October 23, exactly five months after the siege began.
In July, martial law was extended until yearend 2017 but on December 13 last year, Congress approved President Duterte’s request to extend martial law until yearend 2018.
Galvez told MindaNews on Monday that martial law is still needed “to completely eliminate the threat of Daesh/ISIS and all forms of terrorism in Mindanao.
“We still have the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF)-Daesh threat in Central Mindanoa and the Abu Sayyaf Gorup in Basilan and Sulu. With martial law, we can dramatically reduce the terror and drug menace by yearend,” he said.
Galvez said the Maute remnants under Abu Dar will have a hard time recruiting members because mechanisms have been put in place at the local level to help prevent violent extremism.
He referred to the dialogues and coordination they have conducted with Muslim religious leaders and local officials.
Galvez cited their efforts in “diplomatic mentoring” which involves talking with local chief executives and in settling cases of ‘rido’ (clan feuds).
“Diplomatic mentoring is moral suasion for them to do what is morally right and what is good for their people… to respect rule of law and exercise their leadership to govern and promote the welfare of their people,” Galvez told MindaNews.
“Indirect disarming or voluntary surrender of firearms is just one consequential outcome of our broad diplomatic strategies,” he said.
Last Friday, Mayor Anton Burahan of Pata Island in Sulu surrendered a cache of weapons and ammunition to Brigadier General Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu.
The mayor surrendered 81MM mortar tubes; a 90 RR crew-served weapon; a barrel of caliber .50 MG; four M16 rifles; three M14 rifles; five Garand rifles; an M79 grenade launcher and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.
A ‘rido’ settlement in Lanao del Sur also yielded several firearms from erstwhile warring clans. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)