DEFENSE Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Tuesday night said there was no lapse in intelligence that allowed Maute group terrorists to go on a rampage in Marawi City, but admitted that some of the reports they received were not properly appreciated.
“We knew they were there, and in fact, there was this big firefight somewhere in Piagpo and in the mountainous area surrounding it. I don’t think there was a lapse of intelligence; it’s just the appreciation of the intelligence that was lacking,” Lorenzana told reports in Moscow.
The military said fighting started when combined government forces on Tuesday raided a house where Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, previously reported as badly wounded a few months back, was believed to be hiding.
At around 1:45 p.m. Tuesday, a joint operation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police was launched in Marawi City to capture Hapilon, but security forces were apparently caught off guard by more than 100 Maute group members who took over vital installations in the area.
In a press briefing, Lorenzana said the Maute group was receiving “small amounts of funding” from international groups.
“That’s why they asked [Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon] Hapilon to transfer to expand their base,” he said.
Lorenzana confirmed three people were killed in the clashes after the terrorists occupied a hospital and a jail, and burned down buildings, including a Catholic Church.
A priest and several churchgoers were taken hostage by gunmen, reports said.
In contrast to Lorenzana’s assessment, Senator Panfilo Lacson said the Maute group attacks were made possible by a failure of intelligence.
Lacson said he was baffled how a huge number of armed terrorists were able to enter Marawi City at the time when the Philippine National Police was conducting operations against Hapilon, who was spotted in the area with 15 followers.
Senator Gregorio Honasan, on the other hand, said there was a “failure to coordinate” by local leaders.
“We must understand that the local government units are the convergence points for this…. We need to harness the information-gathering capability and reporting systems that are in place so that we can be more proactive,” he said.
A former deputy governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao told a TV interview that members of the Maute group had infiltrated Marawi City days before the attack on Tuesday.
Former deputy governor Alonto Lucman told GMA-7 that the terrorists had prepositioned their firearms before they carried out the attack, so the Army was caught by surprise.