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Lanao del Sur mayors declare war vs Maute in manifesto

A police officer holds a poster of wanted Filipino Muslim militants known as "Maute " group at a checkpoint set up at the entrance to Iligan city Saturday, May 27, 2017 in southern Philippines. Iligan city is one of the safe havens for the tens of thousands of Marawi residents who have fled their city following the rampage by Muslim militants. AP/Bullit Marquez

LANAO DEL SUR, Philippines — Mayors in Lanao del Sur have signed a manifesto declaring war against the Maute terror group that instigated the raging conflict in Marawi City.

Marawi City is the capital of Lanao del Sur, which has 39 municipalities divided into two congressional districts.

Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, information staff of the Western Mindanao Command, said on Saturday that the manifesto gave Malacañang's effort to restore normalcy in Marawi City a big boost.

The mayors branded Maute terrorists and their leaders as “enemies of the Maranao people” in their strongly-worded manifesto that they released on Saturday.

The manifesto was an offshoot of a dialogue early this week among its signatories and Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., commander of the Westmincom. 

The dialogue was jointly facilitated by Lanao del Sur Vice Gov. Mamimtal Adiong Jr. and Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong, representative of the province to the 24-member Regional Assembly in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

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The regional lawmaker said on Saturday that the manifesto the mayors voluntarily drafted and signed was a tacit declaration of war against the Maute group, also known as the Dawlah Islamiya.

Among those who affixed their signatures to the manifesto was Mayor Dimnatang Pansar of Butig, where the Maute group first emerged and displayed the flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in 2015.

Some signatories have called on commanders in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which has a current peace overture with Malacanang, to help authorities fight the Maute terror group.

Forces of the MILF in the second district of Maguindanao have been fighting for almost two weeks now the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, also operating in the fashion of ISIS.

No fewer than a thousand MILF members are now operating against one of three factions in the BIFF, led by Esmael Abdulmalik, in swampy areas in Maguindanao’s adjoining Sharif Saidona, Salibo, Datu Piang and Datu Saudi towns.

The MILF and the government are bound to cooperate in neutralizing terrorists and criminals in conflict flashpoint areas by the Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities that negotiators from both sides crafted in Cagayan de Oro City in July 1997.

The vice mayor of Lanao del Sur’s Poona Bayabao town, physician Lampa Pandi, has recommended to Wesmincom the creation of a “speakers’ bureau” to talk in public about solutions to the security issues now hounding Marawi City and Lanao del Sur.

“The speakers’ bureau should be comprised of religious leaders, people from the local government units, from the academe and from peace advocacy entities,” Pandi said on Saturday.

Petinglay said Galvez, who is overseeing the military’s effort to clear Marawi City from Maute terrorists, is amenable to the proposal of Pandi.

"Our commander (Galvez) is cognizant too that the proposed bureau can also help unite the people in Marawi City and in Lanao del Sur against violent religious extremists," Petinglay said.

Galvez, however, wants the volunteer information campaign bloc organized only after members of the Islamic religious communities in Marawi City and in Lanao del Sur had finalized their fatwah (edict) against Maute terrorists.

Senior moderate Maranao clerics promised Galvez during a meeting early this week to issue a common fatwah against the Maute terror group after consultations with the communities they each lead.

Chief Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac, director of the Police Regional Office-ARMM, welcomed as “positive” the manifesto of the mayors against terrorists operating in Marawi City and nearby areas.

“We can easily overcome this group if there is cooperation among local government units, the police, the military and the local religious sector,” Sindac said.

Sindac said mayors in Lanao del Sur and their constituent-barangay captains are overtly active now in helping the police prevent infiltration by Maute terrorists into municipal capitals and villages along highways in their respective municipalities.

"The mayors are also helping guard isolated barangays from intrusion by terrorists," Sindac said.

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