By Francis Wakefield
Philippine Army chief Lt. Gen. Rolando Bautista has confirmed that possible remnants and supporters of the Maute Group and other local terrorist groups continuously recruit for new members to launch a future attack similar to what happened to Marawi City last year.
Bautista made the revelation in an interview during the Army-Media Fellowship Night held at the Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Makati City on Friday night.
He said they continue to get numerous information that the recruitment continues and that foreign fighters have also arrived to join their local counterparts.
“Actually expected iyun ano (we already expected that). In fact after the Marawi liberation again its common action that supporters who are inside, the enemy whom we already neutralized and we have received reports that the recruitment is not limited within Lanao del Sur,” Bautista said.
“But it also continued in the area of Basilan, Sulu and even in the area of Palimbang,” he added.
Bautista said if one will observe prior to the Marawi siege, different terrorist groups united under the leadership of the late Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon to establish a caliphate state in Southeast Asia.
“And we all know that they have support coming from the different leaderships particularly in Indonesia and Malaysia and there were reports which are still being validated that they entered through the southern backdoor and even in Metro Manila there are but we were able to identify them and at the same time actions were taken by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the concentration right now is in Central Mindanao,” Bautista said.
He said if one will talk of Central Mindanao or local terrorist group in Central Mindanao, the BIFF or the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters comes to mind.
“Some local terrorist groups will unite with the BIFF as the area in Central Mindanao besides sa hindi masyado yung sundalo (there are less soldiers) and their movement in the area is malaki (big) so they take advantage of that,” Bautista said.
Bautista said the recruitment and threat continues and the possibility that terrorists will occupy or lay siege to another city is there.
“There is a threat, the recruitment continues so meaningful to say if the recruitment continues there is still a possibility that they will lay siege or occupy another city, not particularly Marawi City. That is a big possibility that is why the rehabilitation of Marawi City continuous,” he said.
Bautista said part of the recruitment is how they see the progress of the rehabilitation of Marawi will develop in the coming months.