FOREIGN Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano admitted that the crisis in Marawi City caused by the Islamic State (IS)-linked Maute group has become a bigger challenge for the Duterte administration but it also showed that the government was not “anti-Muslim but anti-terrorism”.
Cayetano said that the actions of the Maute group had exposed the relationship of illegal drugs to extremism that discouraged other Moro rebels in Mindanao from joining them.
Cayetano said efforts by the Maute to “suck in” other armed groups in Mindanao that were willing to have a peaceful settlement with government did not work.
He added that continuous communication between the government and other rebel groups in Mindanao helped in preventing the Marawi crisis from escalating into a bigger war.
More than 200 people, including civilians and soldiers have been killed since the Maute group, led by Isnilon Hapilon, attacked Marawi City last May 23.
The conflict also displaced over 180,000 residents and left some parts of the city heavily damaged.
Government forces, in one of their operations, also seized 11 kilograms of high-grade “shabu” (methamphetamine hydrochloride) from believed to be from Maute terrorist strengthening the findings that the members of the group are using illegal drugs.
“The challenge has become bigger because of Marawi. But it also exposed the side of extremism and the relationship of illegal drugs to extremists,” Cayetano said in an interview.
Both the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) have condemned the attacks by the terrorist group, stressing that there was no justification for launching an offensive against civilians.
Al-Haj Murad Ibrahim, MILF central committee chairman, said in a statement that the MILF stood “in solidarity with the people of Marawi and Lanao del Sur.”
The two groups also reiterated their commitment to the peace process.
Cayetano said that crisis in Marawi has shown that the government was engaged in a war against terrorists and not with Muslims.
“So now it is a war in terrorism and our Muslim brothers and sisters know that it is not anti-Muslim, but anti-terrorism.