By Genalyn Kabiling
It is only a matter of time before the Islamic militant group holed up in Marawi City would “disintegrate or self-destruct” following reports of its leader’s escape as well as infighting among the rebels, Malacañang said Tuesday.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella projected the imminent end of the armed group even as the military was still verifying reports that its top terror leader Isnilon Hapilon may have fled the battle zone.
“Granting this is true, it would be a clear sign of his cowardice because he abandoned his companions and has ran away from the battle,” Abella said in a Palace news conference.
“It may be also be indicative of the infighting that may now be going on with the group. It may be a matter of time before they disintegrate or self-destruct,” he added.
The military recently reported that Hapilon, the alleged leader of the Abu Sayyaf group, has not been seen in Marawi’s battle zone, triggering speculations of his escape. The government troops earlier tried to arrest Hapilon in Marawi last May 23 but the attempt triggered a rampage by militants with black Islamic State flags.
The government, however, has no proof yet that Hapilon could have eluded the security cordon in the conflict-torn city.
“For now, all of these remain raw information requiring validation by the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and various security agencies of government,” Abella said.
“Hence, we cannot issue any categorical statement on the matter until we get proof,” he added.