Gov’t is fighting IS in Marawi
I fully agree with President Duterte: Government troops are fighting, not homegrown rebels, but the Islamic State in Marawi City. Lawyers will demand direct and concrete evidence supporting this claim, but circumstantial evidence and a catena of events point, beyond a shadow of doubt, to the fact that finally the Wahhabi-Salafist IS fighters have come to our shores.
The fingerprints of the IS are all over the city—the torching and desecration of the Christian cathedral and religious icons; the summary killing of Christians fleeing the war zone; the display of its signature black emblem, and its fighters wrapping themselves in black clothes and hood; and the death of foreign fighters. These are unshakeable evidence of the principal participation of the IS in the siege of Marawi. (According to the Indonesian defense minister, there are 1,200 IS operatives in the Philippines.)
The Philippines’ Department of Defense has not been wanting in alerting us to the presence of IS jihadists. In fact, months ago Secretary Delfin Lorenzana disclosed on national TV intel info that the IS leadership had decided to move its planned wilayat or province from Basilan and Sulu to Central Mindanao, specifically Lanao del Sur, with Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon as the emir. I reacted with a commentary (“Why is IS eyeing Lanao del Sur?”, Opinion, 2/9/17) advancing plausible reasons to support the theory. What followed was an alliance of the forces of the Abu Sayyaf and Maute Group, including, allegedly, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters).
My take is that what triggered the present crisis was the humiliating defeat of the rebels in the town of Piagapo adjacent to Marawi, where more than 30 mujahideen including foreign fighters were killed. A few days after that battle, Marawi was invaded, which the Philippine military tried to tactically preempt by hunting for Hapilon and raiding the huge Abobakar Markas mosque cum assembly complex, the site of the just-concluded international assembly of thousands of members of the Tablieghi Jamaat.
In my February commentary, I cited the vulnerability of Marawi, the “Islamic City,” to extremist ideology given the Maranao’s intense (to a fault) adherence and devotion to Islam. Marawi was ripe for exploitation by an imported radical ideology. The Maute Group, which began as a ragtag bunch of relatives with an axe to grind, has metamorphosed into a force wreaking havoc on their hometown Butig. The emergence of the Mautes was the opening that the IS was waiting for to channel its jihad teachings after it was terribly beaten in and driven from Mosul and Aleppo (I remember the President warning us about this eventuality). It was clever strategy. Now, the Mautes have taken over the command of the allied forces. And Marawi is bearing the brunt of destruction and depredation.
The Maute brothers have abdicated their leadership to play second fiddle to and take orders from Hapilon. They have to endure the agony of helplessly watching the killing and maiming of their innocent kin in Marawi and the destruction of their properties. Hapilon has made Marawi, the capital of Lanao del Sur, a battlefield, and it is now in ruins. This goes against the proud culture and steadfast nationalism of the Maranao vis a vis other tribes in Moroland. The Maute brothers could have vetoed the plan to make Marawi a war zone, much like when the Prophet Muhammad (PUBH) brought the battles against the infidels and nonbelievers from Madinah and Mecca to the mountains of Uhud and Badr. Being a native of the place, I am puzzled and confused even as I weep for my beloved Marawi.
If only for this reason, I support the imposition of martial law.
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Macabangkit B. Lanto (email@example.com), UP Law 1967, was a Fulbright Fellow to New York University for his postgraduate studies. He has served the government in various capacities