Palace backs AFP: There’s no IS here
Malacañang is standing by the military’s claim that there are no operational links between domestic terrorist groups and the Islamic State (IS).
“We stand by the statement of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, through its spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla. According to General Padilla, there are no verified reports that local terrorist groups are receiving support from IS,” said Undersecretary Manolo Quezon of the Presidential Communications Group.
“Based on information at hand, General Padilla said there’s no presence of Daesh. That’s the slang word for them in Arab countries. This (link) has not been established. He said there’s no direct relation between the group here and the bigger terror group Daesh out there in the Middle East,” said Quezon.
He said Malacañang was confident in the military’s ability to flush out the forces driving terrorist movements in the region.
“The armed forces has proven its capacity in the past and we believe that theirs is an accurate assessment,” said Quezon.
A series of recent attacks in Butig, Lanao del Sur, where extremists led by Omar Maute attacked the 51st Infantry Battalion detachment station in Barangay Tayabao has given rise to speculations on the motive for the assault.
There are claims that the Maute group, which is reportedly behind the recent spate of bombings of power transmission lines and towers in Mindanao, is part of the emerging Muslim terrorist groups in the south that have ties to IS.
The Maute group, estimated to have about 80 to 100 members, attacked a military detachment in Butig on Feb. 20, leading to intermittent clashes with the military in the area in succeeding days and the subsequent evacuation of thousands of residents.
The stand-off between the military and the Maute group lasted more than a week in Butig, the Lanao del Sur town which is seen as the center of operations of the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the province.
The Maute group suffered at least 24 fatalities, including it leader Omar Maute. The military lost three soldiers, one of whom was captured and beheaded by the Maute group.
Padilla called the decapitation “a war atrocity, a war crime.”
“We are documenting it closely so we can file the appropriate complaints against this group. Our soldiers should be respected, as they only fight for a bigger cause. But this group [Maute group] are extremists, which is why [military actions against them] have been intense,” he said.
The military has seized the group’s encampment in the town and are in the midst of clearing operations.
“We assure our citizens that clearing operations will be done as fast as possible in Butig, so the residents can go back to their homes as quickly as possible,” Padilla said.
The MILF has claimed that the Maute group had launched the attack in protest against Congress’ failure to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).