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Security increased to prevent Maute's infiltration in Maguindanao

Mayors in Maguindanao on Tuesday vowed to stop any infiltration of Maute terrorists in their towns even if resistance would cause them losses in lives and properties.

Maranaw evacuees from Marawi City now in houses of relatives in Maguindanao have all been provided with relief support by mayors after an extensive check on their backgrounds and profiling by barangay officials assisted by local Islamic missionaries and municipal social workers.

Maguindanao mayors unanimously assured Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu and Major Gen. Arnel Dela Vega of the Army's 6th Infantry Division (ID) of a tight watch over their towns to prevent any siege that could destroy the communities politically and administratively under them.

They told Mangudadatu and Dela Vega of their collective stance against the Dawlah Islamiya Philippines (DIP) during a meeting Tuesday of the provincial peace and order council in Buluan town, the capital of the province.

"We have a sworn duty to protect our people from harm and we ought to stand by it. We dedicate to that commitment our pride, our lives and honor," said the governor's younger sibling, Mayor Freddie, president of the league of mayors in the province.

Dela Vega said he is thankful to the mayors for assuring him and the provincial police director, Senior Superintendent Agustin Tello, of their support to government intelligence initiatives against the fanatical DIP, now comprised by Maute terrorists and a band of Abu Sayyaf militants led by Isnilon Hapilon.

The US government has reportedly been dangling a $5 million bounty for Hapilon in connection with his involvement in the execution of American captives kidnapped in resorts abroad and in provinces outside of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Mangudadatu, presiding chairman of the inter-agency provincial security council, said he was deeply touched by the commitment of his constituent-mayors to government security efforts addressing misguided Islamic militants.

"They will focus on intelligence works. I'm thankful to the mayors. They are putting their lives and honor on the line. That is patriotism and love for Moro homeland," Mangudadatu said.

The office of Mangudadatu and the 6th ID had partnered in sponsoring an anti-terrorism summit two weeks ago involving hundreds of moderate Muslim clerics and theologians working in Islamic schools.

Participants to the summit collectively renounced misguided and fanatical extremism during the gathering and even pledge support to efforts of addressing the problem.

"I'm thankful to the mayors of Maguindanao for renewing their commitment to their sworn duty to maintain law and order in their towns as imposed by the Local Government Code," Mangudadatu said.

He said the mayors also promised to mobilize their association of barangay captains to complement the intelligence thrusts of authorities.

Local officials have confirmed that Hapilon had tried to establish a lair in Maguindanao's hostile "SPMS box" early this year but was promptly driven away by units of 6th ID after learning from them his presence in the area.

The tactical "SPMS box" tag is a geographical label for the Salibo-Pagatin-Mamasapano-Shariff Aguak areas in the second district of Maguindanao, where the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) have lairs and enforces a Taliban-style justice system many clerics do not agree with for being so primitive and barbaric.

While there are recurring hostilities in the SPMS box since 2010, no BIFF gunmen had ever intruded into town centers in Maguindanao for any tactical purpose, possibly to avoid the ire of mayors and their armed followers and volunteer militias guarding municipal capitals.

"We were stunned learning from the radios that from Maguindanao, Hapilon had transferred to Lanao del Sur. There would have been a big trouble in the province had the military not acted on intelligence reports our barangay leaders provided," a mayor, who asked not to be identified, told reporters.

Mangudadatu said he has directed his constituent-mayors to provide safe sanctuary to evacuees from Marawi City that relocated to homes of relatives in Maguindanao.

"For security reasons these evacuees will be screened in most humane manner by municipal social workers, by barangay officials and our traditional elders and religious leaders. As evacuees, they will be treated with cordiality, respect and honor," Mangudadatu said.

Some of the 36 mayors in the province have pledged P50,000 cash each for a pooled effort by the provincial government and their 36-member league to extend relief and rehabilitation support to Marawi City residents now languishing in evacuation sites in Iligan City.

Officials of the provincial police present in Tuesday's emergency meeting of the Mangudadatu-led council said they are also grateful to the mayors for assuring to help prevent Hapilon from returning to Maguindanao.

Hapilon hails from Lantawan town in Basilan. He is of mixed Tausug and Yakan descent.

He and his men were driven away from Barangay Macalang in Al-Barka, Basilan about six months ago by combined armed residents, militiamen and barangay tanods, backed by soldiers, after fierce clashes that lasted for more than a week.

The armed residents of Al-Barka vented their ire on Hapilon's group after the deaths of villagers killed in crossfire precipitated by its wanton attacks on farming enclaves whose settlers they suspected of conniving with the military.

Records obtained from police and army units in Basilan indicated that 36 Abu Sayyaf bandits were killed in a spate of clashes with irate villagers and armed followers of local officials in different towns there in the past six months.

The animosity between the Abu Sayyaf and vigilant Basilan folk worsened when bandits tried to kill the mayor of Tuburan, Dorie Kallahal, and the vice mayor of Sumisip, Adznan Hataman, in separate roadside bombings after Hapilon escaped from the island province.

Sympathetic constituents of the two officials immediately retaliated on the Abu Sayyaf after the bombings, killing more than a dozen bandits, forcing their families to leave.

There were reports too of burning of houses of Abu Sayyaf members by enraged sympathizers of Kallahal and Hataman, nephew of ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman.

The ARMM governor is also a known enemy of the Abu Sayyaf, having made so accessible their hideouts to military combat vehicles and police patrol cars with his concrete arterial network projects in the province.

[Source: By John Unson, Philippines Star, Maguindanao, 31May17]

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small logoThis document has been published on 31May17 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.