By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
President Duterte expressed hope that the threat of terrorism will not go out Mindanao as he said that the government will find it difficult to address the situation, especially if war breaks out in more than one area.
Duterte made the statement days after the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) announced the recent arrests of individuals allegedly link to the Islamic State (ISIS).
The President, in a speech in Tarlac City Wednesday, also again floated the idea of arming civilians in case war breaks out in many areas in the Philippines, especially outside Mindanao.
“This is hypothetical, I don’t want to scare you, but if you do it in the Visayas or Mindanao in three or four places simultaneously, mahihirapan po tayo (it will be very hard for us). It’s going to be bloody, very, very bloody,” Duterte said.
“If hell breaks loose, I’d have to consult the military and maybe I will allow you to own high-powered guns. That is a far-fetched idea. I hope the trouble will be contained in Mindanao only,” he added.
The Philippines dealt with ISIS elements, led by the Maute Group, as they laid siege in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur from May to October, 2017. The war prompted Duterte to declare martial law in the entire island in Mindanao for 60 days initially, until Congress granted its two extensions. The martial law in Mindanao will remain effective until the end of 2018.
But four months after the government was able to quell the war in Marawi City, the military reported that the Islamic State may have already delegated a new leader in Southeast Asia, following the death of their emir Isnilon Hapilon during the war.
Last week, Malacañang welcomed as a positive development in its campaign against terrorism the inclusion of the Maute Group in the United States of America (USA) State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations.
The Maute Group is now one of the seven Islamic State (ISIS)-affiliate groups listed by the State Department as a terrorist organization from the Philippines, Bangladesh, Egypt, Somalia, Tunisia, and West Africa.
“Terrorism, indeed, knows no borders and the inclusion of the Maute Group in the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists and Foreign Terrorist Organizations as an affiliate group of ISIS shows the solidarity and resolve of the international community to flush out evil forces to make the world safe and secure,” The Palace said in a statement.
In a statement posted in its website, the the State Department said that it “has designated three ISIS-affiliated groups – ISIS-West Africa, ISIS-Philippines, and ISIS-Bangladesh – as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) under Section 1(b) of Executive Order (E.O.) 13224 and as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) pursuant to Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.”
“The Department has also designated four other ISIS-affiliated groups and two ISIS-affiliated leaders as SDGTs under Section 1(b) of E.O. 13224. The groups are ISIS-Somalia, Jund al-Khilafah-Tunisia, ISIS-Egypt, and the Maute Group, and the individuals are Mahad Moalim and Abu Musab al-Barnawi,” the US top diplomatic agency added.
In including ISIS-Philippines and the Maute Group, the State Department noted ISIS’s video of militants in the Philippines pledging allegiance to ISIS in June, 2016.
The State Department also noted of the Maute Group’s declaration of their allegiance to ISIS in 2014 and for being an integral part of ISIS-Philippines.
“The Maute Group is responsible for the siege of the City of Marawi in the Philippines, which began in May 2017; the September 2016 Davao market bombing, which killed 15 people and wounded 70 others; and the attempted bomb attack in November 2016 near the US Embassy in Manila,” the US State Department said.