By Ali Macabalang
MARAWI CITY – A solemn convergence of local and foreign Islamic preachers was successfully staged here, June 19 to 23, slaying the ghost of a grim past when militants used the same event as take-off point to launch a bloody five-month siege on this city in 2017.
The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) cooperated with event organizers, local residents, and police and military authorities in hosting the five-day “ijtima” which was participated in by around 10,000 members of the “Daa’wah Tabligh” or Islamic preaching movement from different parts of the country, as well as from Muslim nations like Pakistan, Malaysia and Qatar.
Local hosts put up large tent shelters in the open field that served as sleeping quarters for the participants, although the elders were allowed to sleep inside the huge mosque of the Markaz Abu Bakr Siddiq (MABS).
MABS, located along the highway of Barangay Malutlut here, was the same venue of the ijtima event in 2017 that was infiltrated by jihadists of the Dawla Islamiya group of brothers Abdullah and Omar Maute and Abu Sayyaf guerillas led by Isnilon Hapilon, who was then the anointed head for Asia of terror-prone Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
That event was held just three days before combined elements of the Maute brothers and Hapilon laid siege to this city on May 23, 2017. They went on to wage a five-month battle against government forces that displaced over 200,000 residents and left 24 of the city’s 96 barangays in ruins.
It was also at the same Barangay Malutlut where the first bursts of gunfire erupted between the terrorists and state forces on May 23.
To prevent a repeat of the ijtima tragic episode in 2017, NCMF Secretary Saidamen Pangarungan ordered the agency’s personnel to coordinate the preparation and actual conduct of the recent convergence with police and military forces.
In a Facebook post, NCMF spokesman Jun Alonto-Datu Ramos said their agency “had received multiple queries regarding the safety and legitimacy of the event, (with some) fearing that this is a grand-scale indoctrination attempt of the Maute group and ISIS.”
But, he said, security “guidelines (set by) Senior Ulama & Shura Akabirs of Daa’wah Tabligh were followed” during the five-day event.
Violent militants such as the Maute brothers, Hapilon and their followers disguised themselves to look like they were also peace-preaching daa’wah tabligh.