Fighting continues, third Maute kin captured

Posted on June 16, 2017

THE MILITARY said on Thursday it has arrested one of the Maute brothers, a senior member of the Islamic State (IS)-backed militants it is fighting in the southern city of Marawi in Mindanao.

Mohammad Noaim Maute, alias Abu Jadid, was arrested at a checkpoint near the coastal city of Cagayan de Oro just after dawn, said Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera, a military spokesman.

Two of Mohammad’s brothers, Omarkhayam and Abdullah Maute, lead the terror group affiliated with their family that is at the forefront of a vicious battle -- now in its third week -- with security forces for Marawi City, provincial capital of Lanao del Sur.

Marawi is about 100 km (60 miles) south of Cagayan de Oro, but it was not clear whether Mohammad was coming from the besieged city. Most of the other seven Maute brothers, including Omarkhayam and Abdullah, are believed to be in Marawi. Their parents, Cayamora and Farhana Maute, were taken into custody last week in separate cities.

Brigadier-General Gilbert Gapay, spokesman for the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command, identified Mohammad as a suspected bombmaker for the group, and said he was holding a fake student card of the Mindanao State University, based in Marawi, when stopped at the checkpoint. He was not armed.

Police said Mohammad, an Arabic-language teacher, readily admitted his identity when questioned.

Meanwhile, a politician said on Thursday residents fleeing Marawi City had seen scores of dead bodies in an area where intense fighting has taken place between security forces and Islamist militants in the last three weeks.

“Dead bodies, at least 100, scattered around the encounter area,” Zia Alonto Adiong, a politician in the area who is helping in rescue and relief efforts, told reporters, referring to accounts he had received from fleeing residents.

The military said it could not confirm the report. The army has said 290 people have been killed in the three weeks of fighting, including 206 militants, 58 soldiers and 26 civilians.

Mr. Herrera said troops were advancing toward the commercial center of Marawi City, which is held by the militants. “We intend to finish the fight as soon as possible. Our tactical commanders are doing their best,” he said.

The government on Thursday vowed to rehabilitate Marawi “as fast as it can” although it has yet to determine when it can begin rehabilitation and estimate the damage from the clashes.

Hindi ko masasabi ’yung exact time frame nito (I cannot say the exact time frame of the rehabilitation) but we’ll do it as fast as we can,” National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Executive Director Ricardo B. Jalad said in a chance interview at Malacañang on Thursday.

A comprehensive assessment of the overall cost to infrastructure and the local economy will have to wait until guns fall silent and the dust settles.

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) government held on June 6 an initial meeting on how it will go about evaluating what has been destroyed, so it could start drafting the rehabilitation plan.

An initial assessment estimates Marawi’s rehabilitation will extend beyond the term of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, who is expected to step down by 2022.

While he could not say if Marawi’s rehabilitation could possibly stretch beyond Mr. Duterte’s term, Mr. Jalad said restoring normalcy in Marawi will be “easier” compared with recovery efforts after supertyphoon “Yolanda” pummeled Visayas in 2013.

“Anyway, Marawi lang ’to (this is only in Marawi). Palagay ko mas ano ’to madali lang ito (I think the rehabilitation of the city will be easier). It’s not like the effects of [supertyphoon] Yolanda,” the NDRRMC official said.

“In that case kasi doon sa Yolanda wala pa tayo masyadong maayos na template or protocol. But with this, natuto na tayo sa experience natin in the past calamities, mapabilis natin yung process natin (In that case, the situation in the aftermath of Yolanda was different because we did not have a template or protocol at that time. But with this, we have learned from past calamities, thereby speeding up the process),” he added.

A three-phased recovery and rehabilitation plan is being drafted by the regional government with representatives of the city and the province of Lanao del Sur, and assisted by the World Bank.

As of June 14, 66,738 families have been displaced from Marawi City and the municipality of Marantao in Lanao del Sur -- 5% of them are staying in evacuation centers while the others are with relatives, Mr. Jalad said.

Meanwhile, the NDRRMC is “still focusing” on the response operation in Marawi and will deploy “rapid damage and needs assessment teams” to examine the city “as soon as” the place is free from armed elements, Mr. Jalad also said.

Last Saturday, Malacañang announced that P10 billion -- “an approximation given by the President” -- is being readied for the rehabilitation program.

Asked about the source of the P10 billion, Mr. Jalad said the NDRRMC “still [has] some balances on that.”

“Aside from what we have, it’s beyond me to determine where we will get that,” he added.

Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno recently said that there is no need, for now, for a supplemental budget for the rehabilitation of public and private establishments in Marawi City, adding that response funds under the government budget are sufficient thus far.

The calamity fund for this year has been cut by P21.5 billion while the Office of the President received more than a 600% hike in funding -- with Mr. Duterte’s intelligence fund increasing almost five-fold compared to the same appropriation during the time of his predecessor.

In a related development, the Department of Justice started processing compensation for civilians affected by the Marawi City attack.

Pursuant to Republic Act no. 7309 or “An Act Creating a Board of Claims under the Department of Justice for Victims of Unjust Imprisonment or Detention and Victims of Violent Crimes of other Purposes,” the DoJ started processing the applications of victims of the continuing armed conflict in Marawi City yesterday at 1:00 p.m., Camp Evangelista, Cagayan de Oro City.

“The state, through the Board of Claims, can show its genuine concern for the victims and impart to them that the government is not indifferent to their plight,” The DoJ said.

The compensation will be awarded to victims of violence perpetrated by Maute/ISIS in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, which started last May 23 and continues to this day.

“The Board may approve and award, the maximum amount of ten thousand pesos or the amount necessary to reimburse the claimant the expenses incurred for hospitalization, medical treatment, loss of wage, loss of support or other expenses directly related to the injury, whichever is lower,” the DoJ added.

Last Monday, Mr. Aguirre flew to Cagayan de Oro to oversee the prosecution’s proceedings against the arrested Maute members. He also visited the injured soldiers at the Camp Evangelista Army Hospital where he gave P50,000 from his personal fund to the hospital directress. -- main report by Reuters, with Ian Nicolas P. Cigaral and Kristine Joy V. Patag