SPORATIC fighting between government troops and some Moro groups suggests that the threat of Islamic State-inspired extremists from Marawi City is spilling over to other parts of Mindanao, President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday night.
In Cotabato, Duterte said, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters and government troops battled the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, which has aligned itself with the Maute group, the ISIS-inspired terrorists that overran Marawi City.
The President also said “raw” members of the Moro National Liberation Front and the MILF may have joined enemy lines.
The military is closely watching the oundaries of Butig, Lanao del Sur and Buldon, Maguindanao to prevent any reinforcement of the Maute group in Marawi.
The President met separately with top leaders of the MILF and MNLF last Sept. 14 and 17, requesting assistance on efforts to deal with extremist elements in the country’s south.
Police and military forces are not allowed to enter territories of the MILF and the MNLF, due to an existing ceasefire agreement.
Also on Thursday night, Duterte said martial law in Mindanao will be lifted once military operations wind down in Marawi City, and when there’s no longer a threat of the fighting spilling over to other areas.
Duterte showed a “matrix” exposing the source of money used to finance the already hundred-day Marawi siege, naming the deceased Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog as one of those involved.
The President admitted he had Parojinog and other alleged narco-politicians wiretapped to trace their transactions.
“I was listening to him. Don’t ask me what kind of listening device. It was a whisper from god I was listening to. So they were all taped,” Duterte said, referring to Parojinog and Iloilo Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog.
“I was the one who ordered it,” he said.
Asked about the legality of the President’s orders, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said, “I’m sure that being a lawyer, he was operating within bounds of legality.”
Armed Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Año said a Mindanao-based drug cartel may have funded the Maute terrorists to stage a rebellion in Marawi City, with slain Ozamis City Mayor Parojinog acting as the link to the extremist group.
“The Maute brothers are into drugs. If you are watching the [TV show] Narcos this is the same [setup]. [There is a] Lanao-Misamis cartel,” Año said.
Año said he was not discounting the possibility that the bundles of money recovered by soldiers in one of the structures in Marawi City last June could also been derived from illegal drugs.
Meanwhile, opposition senators expressed hope Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana will stand by his word that no nationwide martial law will be declared despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s repeated threats to do so.
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