DUTERTE DEFENDS MARTIAL LAW IN MINDANAO
BY ROGER M. BALANZA
Attempts by local terrorists to make Mindanao part of the worldwide web of violence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is behind President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao.
The siege by the home-grown terrorist Maute Group on Marawi City on May 22 was such an attempt inspired by the ISIS to extend its brand of violence in the Philippines.
The Middle East-based ISIS is considered as today’s most violent terrorist group by terrorism experts.
With Mindanao under grip of the ISIS and local terrorists, the Philippines would be underway as the epicenter of terrorism in Southeast Asia, according to the experts.
ISIS and local terrorists are starting off this road to violence with the assault on Marawi City.
The Maute Group wants to create pre-dominantly Muslim city of Marawi as a province of the Daesh, according to a report submitted by President Rodrigo Duterte to Congress.
Daesh is Arabic for ISIS.
In the report required by the Constitution to justify the declaration, President Duterte detailed the violent scene in Marawi City on May 22.
The terrorists assaulted the Marawi City Jail and released at least 68 inmates, burned the Marawi Police Station and a hospital, cut power and transportation lines, ransacked a bank, took control of at least three bridges and hunted down and executed Christians, said the report.
“These activities constitute not simply a display of force, but a clear attempt to establish the group’s seat of power in Marawi City for their planned establishment of a Daesh wilayat or province covering the entire Mindanao,” President Duterte said in the report.
The Marawi siege has prompted President Duterte to declare Martial Law in Mindanao on May 23.
President Duterte was required by constitutional mandate to submit the report justifying the Martial Law declaration within 48 hours.
The President submitted the report to Senate President Koko Pimentel and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez during a Cabinet meeting called by the President on May 26 in Davao City.
Marawi City is ripe for the picking to become an ISIS province due to penetration by terrorists and its Muslim population.
As much as 75 percent of Marawi, a predominantly Muslim City, had been infiltrated by the Maute group and the Abu Sayyaf, the report said adding that foreign terrorists from Indonesia and Malaysia joined local counterparts in the attack on the city in western Mindanao.
The Abu Sayyaf is the most known and largest terror group in Mindanao and has been declared by the US and the European Union as an international terrorist group. It’s head, Isnilon Totoni Hapilon, is in the most wanted list of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) with a $5 million prize on his head. The Abu Sayyaf has gained international notoriety for its kidnapping and beheading of foreign hostages. It has strong presence in western Mindanao, and the islands of Basilan, Sulu and Basilan.
The Maute Group, based in the town of Butig in Lanao del Sur, is headed by the brothers Omar and Abdulla Maute. Formerly named Dawlah Islamiya, the group is relatively new in the Philippine terror scene, founded only two years ago at about the same time as the ISIS was making headlines for its violent forays in the Middle East.
Combining forces, the Maute Group and the Abu Sayyaf attacked Marawi City in the afternoon of May 22. The surprise attack caught police and military, AND Marawi residents, flat-footed.
Indonesian and Malaysian terrorists joined the attack, the military said.
The Philippines has become the epicenter of terrorism in Southeast Asia, according to experts on terrorism.
President Duterte’s report to Congress bares ties of local terrorist groups to international terrorists, including the ISIS, apparently confirming experts’ views of the Philippine role in regional terrorism .
The Maute group has extensive networks and links to foreign armed groups, like Jemaah Islamiyah and Mujahidin Indonesia Timur, the report said.
“Reports abound that foreign-based terrorist groups, the Isis in particular, as well as illegal drug money, provide financial and logistical support to the Maute group,” said the report.
“Considering the network and alliance-building activities among terrorist groups, local criminals, and lawless armed men, the siege of Marawi City is a vital cog in attaining their longstanding goal: Absolute control over the entirety of Mindanao,” the report said.