• ‘Marawi attack a political, religious conflict’


    The scene is like that of a war movie.

    Roads going out of Marawi City and nearby Lanao del Sur towns are full of people and vehicles, filling the streets of nearby Iligan City. Thousands are walking, carrying whatever they can. Military helicopters hover above.

    Residents fleeing from Marawi walk through a checkpoint at the entrance of Iligan on southern Philippine island of Mindanao. AFP Photo

    Cars are bumper-to-bumper as hundreds also head to Cagayan de Oro City, an hour and a half away from Lanao del Norte province’s main urban center.

    On Thursday, Lanao del Norte Gov. Imelda Dimaporo, with Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo, convened the Provincial Peace and Order Council attended by mayors, provincial officials and heads of government offices.

    “We are all supportive of the declaration of martial law in Mindanao,” Nunungan Mayor Marcos Mamay told The Manila Times in a phone interview. His town is closest to Marawi City, divided only by the Pantar forest.

    Mamay said he had asked the 2nd Mechanized Brigade in Maria Cristina, Iligan City for the deployment of troops to all possible entry points the rebels might use in fleeing military artillery in the troubled southern Islamic city.

    As of press time, fighting in Marawi was ongoing, according to him. At noontime Thursday, there was an exchange of fire between the Maute group rebel forces and the military where two civilians were wounded. At around 3 p.m., military helicopters dropped bombs at the madrasa (Islamic school) where the rebels are holed, with no immediate report of casualties.

    Mamay said the consensus among Lanao del Norte officials of what’s going on in Marawi is that it is both a religious and political conflict. He downplayed the supposed involvement of the Islamic State (IS).

    “Honestly, the involvement of the [IS] is far from a possibility. The likelihood is that Shias (a faction of Islam, prominently practiced in Iran) want to strengthen their presence in Marawi (considered the seat of Islam in the Philippines),” the Nunungan mayor told The Manila Times.

    Filipino Muslims are known followers of the Sunni faction of Islam.

    “We didn’t know they were among us during the gathering of Islam missionaries, the 2017 World Estima held in Marawi that ended on Saturday (May 20). They were dressed just like the rest of us and delegates from Pakistan, India and other countries,” Mamay said.

    It was after the event that the armed rebels started occupying strategic spots of the city, which turned into a violent takeover and forced President Rodrigo Duterte to cut short his official visit to Russia.

    Mamay claimed the Shias wanted to seize power, and resorted to violence.

    Although the government has said that the situation was under control, Marawi and Lanao del Sur residents continue to flee and seek refuge in other towns and cities.

    It was a repeat of last year’s siege of the town of Butig, Lanao del Sur, also caused by the Maute group.


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    1. There is a vital angle that should be closely looked into by authorities. The claims made by the Nunungan Mayor gives credence to the long suspicion that newly initiated local Shia followers and converts aim to take a foothold in Marawi City being the only declared Islamic city in the Philippines. But this must be a mere ambitious cover story in order to elevate the Marawi incident to get aligned to international terrorism.

      Moreover, the Mayor spelled out an opening on who could be a possible target for investigation being the mentioned “spouse of a losing mayoralty candidate”. A more surgical investigation of the “spouse relatives” could fleshen-out the individuals involved. It would be a shame and mortal insult to the people of Marawi City and the Lanao Provinces to have been out-maneuvered by the relatives of this losing municipal mayoralty candidate. In fact, it was mentioned in other news reports that weeks prior to this humiliating incident, an opposition Senator was in Marawi. There might just be a political connection between this Senator and the losing mayoral candidate.

      With regards to the Abus, if indeed true that they are moving from their island lairs in the south to mainland Mindanao then the National Government and the AFP has to re-do their military strategies and custom-fit its strategic plans. There was failure to contain the group while operating in the smaller island of Basilan and more smaller islands of Sulu. A Mindanao-wide campaign would surely encounter more obstacles that requires highly trained and determined manpower armed with adequate firepower and combat resources.

      It would however be worthy to note that the natives of Southern Philippines through centuries had never been subjugated through military means. Honestly, a lasting Southern solution would require a more wholistic approach intertwined with the religious, cultural and socio-political economic realities in the region.