Maute-linked terrorists regrouping? Probe sought

Cecille Suerte Felipe - The Philippine Star
Maute-linked terrorists regrouping? Probe sought
One of the several barangays in Marawi City that got ruined as a result of the 2017 conflict in the area.
Handout photo, Norodin Alonto Lucman, via John Unson

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Ronald dela Rosa vowed to look into reports that the Maute group – behind the five-month siege of Marawi City in 2017 – was getting back together.

Dela Rosa said that according to National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) chief of staff Manggay Guro Jr., it is not farfetched that the so-called Maute sympathizers are “regrouping and growing in number.”

“That can happen. They are extremists, they would just lay low (and attack again),” Dela Rosa told The STAR in a phone interview over the weekend.

He said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) should take proactive measures to preempt and thwart any possible resurgence of attacks in, which was devastated amid fighting between the Maute group and government forces from May to October 2017.

The siege displaced thousands of residents, whose homes were totally destroyed.

“The AFP and the PNP should be proactive,” said Dela Rosa, who served as PNP chief from July 2016 to April 2018, and was at the helm of the PNP when the siege took place.

During Friday’s public hearing of the Senate committee on foreign affairs on the proposed temporary housing in the Philippines of special immigrant visa applicants from Afghanistan, chaired and presided over by Sen. Imee Marcos, Guro said there was an incident again in Marawi City last week.

“Just recently this Wednesday an incident happened in Marawi, again, concerning the same group who caused the Marawi siege,” Guro said, but did not elaborate.

“So, apparently, they are regrouping and they’re growing in numbers because of the continuous problems in Marawi that, up until now, most of those affected by the Marawi siege have not returned to their homeland or to their homes,” he added.

Marcos noted that the NCMF and other Muslim brothers “are very concerned about peace in Mindanao, as they expressed doubts on the plan to provide temporary housing in the Philippines” to Afghan refugees.

Guro said they have raised their sentiments during the June 7 meeting called upon by the Presidential Management Staff. “We are not particularly concerned about the infiltration or the sleepers among these coming (from) Afghanistan, but more of being a target of an attack,” he said.

A sleeper cell is a terrorist cell whose members work undercover in an area until sent into action.

“So, these are the concerns for the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, because if their mobility will not be limited and even if their mobility will be limited, these people from the South or these sympathizers of the ISIS-inspired group can easily travel to Luzon,” Guro noted.

“And that is the concern, actually. We agree with the Security Council that as far as the infiltration of Taliban-inspired (sympathizers) from… Afghanistan, that is very slim; but for the security concerns of those within the Philippines already, like the sympathizers of these leftist groups,” he added.

Marcos filed a resolution for the Senate to investigate, in aid of legislation, the US request for the Philippines to accommodate their Afghanistan contacts.

Dela Rosa explained that extremism and terrorism are universal and not isolated in the Philippines. “

The senator noted that there should be a whole of government approach to preempting a repeat of the devastating siege in Marawi City.

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