By Rosemarie A. Zamora

THE Philippine government is looking at possible extradition of an Indonesian militant who is part of the terrorist Maute group on Wednesday, Nov. 1 in Marawi.

Authorities are considering the extradition of 23-old Muhammad Ilham Syahputra, who also admitted involvement in the 2016 attack on Jakarta that was claimed by ISIS, a Philippine military spokesperson said, adding that he is under police custody.

However, the matter is best handled by the Department of Justice, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Restituto F. Padilla Jr. said during a press briefing in Malacañang on Friday.

Officials from the DoJ have yet to respond to request for comment, as of this writing if it is possible for him to be extradited.

However, Syahputra is “facing serious charges here right now,” Mr. Padilla said.

Syahputra told police that he arrived in Marawi in November last year upon the invitation of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who is also affiliated with ISIS.

“Cases will be filed against him for his participation and information coming from his narratives will continuously be validated before we believe every word he says,” Mr. Padilla added.

The main battle area, according to Mr. Padilla, “still harbors a number of stragglers,” with an estimated 36 militants remaining.

“What happened in the past few days are proof that the areas we are still prohibiting residents to enter are areas where threats remain from these stragglers,” he said in Filipino. “These are the remnants of the enemies who are still hiding in the area.”

Mr. Padilla also clarified that there was no premature declaration of Marawi City’s liberation from terrorists, as remaining stragglers have no bearing in the city’s overall security.

Despite continued operations for the remaining stragglers, the return of internally displaced persons in nine cleared barangays in Marawi will be completed today.

Office of Civil Defense Assistant Secretary Kristoffer James E. Purisima said that an estimated 6,462 residents will be expected to return home in the said barangays, including Basang Malutlut, Tampilong, Panggao Saduc, Datu Saber, Green, Morlataw Lucsadatu, Marawi Poblacion, East Basak, and Matampay.

Mr. Purisima also said that identification cards are being issued to residents to ascertain that the returning IDPs are legitimate Marawi residents.

“As previously mentioned, utilities such as water and electricity, and health services are already accessible in the identified barangays. Rolling stores and markets will be established to provide basic needs. Means of transportation within the areas will also be made available to provide mobility,” he said.

With the transition of the government to the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Marawi City from military operation, President Rodrigo R. Duterte issued on Oct. 27, Administrative Order No. 9, designating the Chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) as Chairperson of Task Force Bangon Marawi and designating the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Public Works and Highways as Vice-chairpersons.

As the head of the task force, HUDCC chairman Eduardo D. Del Rosario said in a statement that: “We will not only rebuild the physical structures but also rebuild the dreams of Marawi residents for a better future and a more progressive and secure Marawi.” The statement was read by Mr. Purisima.

Other members of the reorganized Task Force include:

NDRRMC Executive Director and Civil Defense Administrator, Undersecretary Ricardo B. Jalad as the new Executive Director of the Task Force.

HUDCC Assistant Secretary Avelino D. Tolentino III will be head of the Task Force Bangon Marawi Secretariat.

HUDCC Assistant Secretary Felix Castro will head the Task Force Bangon Marawi field office as manager.

Regional Director Raynildo S. Aniñon of the OCD-ARMM will be the executive officer of the Task Force Bangon Marawi field office.

In a related development, a Filipina who is alleged to be an online recruiter for the terrorist Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), made an appearance during a preliminary investigation at the Department of Justice (DoJ), claiming she was deprived of the right to counsel.

Karen Aizha Hamden was assigned three lawyers – Atty. Raymund Nuque for her inquest and Attys. Don Chong Viray and Atty. Ricalde for a closed-door interview – but she insisted on writing her own counter-affidavit on a piece of paper on the spot.

However, DoJ Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter L. Ong did not allow her to do so, because “there was a seeming conflict when at the same time she was invoking her right to counsel, she would write without any lawyer to represent her.”

For his part, NBI Agent Joshua S. Santiago said that the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) provided her with legal counsel the night she was brought in for inquest proceedings.

“After that it’s already her responsibility to contact her lawyer,” Mr. Santiago added.

Ms. Hamidon was arrested last Oct. 11 in her home in Taguig City by operatives of National Bureau of Investigation-Counter Terrorism Division (NBI-CTD) who seized her cellphones, laptops, tablets, and other electronic devices being used for her illegal online activities.

Ms. Hamidon was charged before the DoJ for 14 counts of violations of Article 318 (Inciting a Rebellion of Insurrection) of the Revised Penal Code,as amended, in relation to Section 6 of R.A. 10175 (Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012) last Oct. 18.

Ms. Hamidon strongly denied the false accusations in relation to her involvement to the Maute group by saying: “My function is only through the usage of social media. I have nothing to do with any of those accusations like Maute, I have nothing to do with that. I strongly deny all of those alleged false accusations hurled against me.” – Andrea Louise E. San Juan