Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, who hails from Bukidnon in Mindanao, said it was easy for the Maute brothers to recruit members because of the high incidence of poverty.
“You have to remember, Lanao del Sur is No. 2 in terms of poverty incidence in the country. Close to 70 percent of its population live below the poverty line. Marami pong ‘no read no write’ dun. Maraming illiterate sa probinsya na ito (There are many ‘no read no write’ there. There are many illiterate people in this province),” Zubiri said.
Poverty led to the rise of the Maute extremist movement in Lanao del Sur, he said. “Dahil s’yempre kung gutom ka medyo hindi mo nararamdaman ang tulong ng gobyerno napakadali sumama sa isang grupo na nangangako sa iyo na `pag sumama ka you will be in paradise. Makakatulong sila sa inyo (Of course, if you’re hungry and you do not feel the help of the government it is easy to join this group which can promise you paradise. They promised help).”
The senator noted that the Maute group had been involved in terrorist activities, such as extortion, drug trafficking and kidnapping for ransom.
“May pera sila. So, binibigyan nila ng allowance itong mga tao na wala pong natatanggap o nararamdaman galing sa national government. So, `yan po sa tingin ko ang No.1 reason na maraming gustong sumama sa kanila (They have money. They give monetary allowance to these people who receive nothing from the national government. That, I believe is the No. 1 reason why there are a lot of people who want to join them),” he said.
“And maybe the second reason is because ISIS now is being romanticized all over the world. If you watch television, you will see that they are called ISIS freedom fighters in Syria, in Iraq fighting infidels, so to speak, or their religious enemy,” Zubiri said, referring to the Islamic State.
“And it’s fueling the fire all over the world na parang ‘Uy, ipaglaban natin ang kanilang mga adhikain at adbokasiya’ (like, ‘Hey, let’s fight for their goal and advocacy) which is religious extremism,” he said.
Habib Macaayong, president of the Mindanao State University, believes that the primary reason for the rise of extremism in Mindanao is injustice.
“The Muslims have been clamoring for fair policies from the government. But they observed that there have been no fair policies in the government. It was very difficult for the Muslims to apply for a job, to participate in programs,” he said.
“They have difficulty in owning the land. Up to now many landowners in Marawi City have no land titles. So they want justice and the government failed to give them justice. So some of these people went abroad and they happened to be associated with these terrorists,” he said.
“Number 2 is poverty. The founders of Maute, we heard, they are motivating the youth, to join them because they will be given salary. Maybe they joined [the group]to do terrorism but only to receive money,” he said.
When asked how much salary was offered to recruits, Macaayong said, “According to them P36,000 per month. [That’s] big.”
The Maute reportedly was able to convince their members that they will get regular salaries. “We heard [the money will come]from abroad. But we don’t know what country [was]offering the money to them.”
Military spokesman Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr. said: “We have to understand the origins of Maute. The Maute group was first influenced by the JI (Jemaah Islamiyah). They joined the JI in 2012 because of a religious leader by the name of Sanjusi. But this Sanjusi, an Indonesian cleric, had already been neutralized.”
“Si Sanjusi ang siyang nagtanim ng hindi magagandang idea sa utak ng mga Maute. By and large ‘yung JI tame na tame pa `yan compared to Daesh (Sanjusi was the one who implanted bad ideas in the minds of the Maute brothers. The JI is tamer compared with the Daesh),” Padilla said.
“Daesh” is an acronym for the Arabic phrase al-Dawla al-Islamiya al-Iraq al-Sham (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and is another name for ISIS. But ISIS militants do not want to use Daesh as their identity as it has a pejorative meaning.
He said the Maute brothers come from a wealthy family. “Mayayaman ito e. Nagsimula sila sa pagiging bandido. Nangingikil, nanggugulo, naging aktibo sa mga banditry activities. Tapos, napasukan nga nitong si Sanjusi. Naimpluwensihan sila (They are rich. They started as a bandit group. They extort, harass, became active in banditry. Then, Sanjusi infiltrated their group. They were influenced).”
Padilla was referring to Ustadz Sanusi who reportedly became a mentor to the Maute brothers, but was killed in a police operation in 2012. Omarkhayam and Abdullah studied in Egypt and Jordan respectively.
“Tapos, ipinadala sa Middle East `yung dalawa para mag-aral bilang Islamic scholars. Iyung isa (Omarkhayam) napunta sa Egypt. Nadikit siya ngayon du’n sa mga extremists at violent minds na nandu’n nu’ng (lumaganap ang) Arab Spring (Then two of them were sent to the Middle East to study and become Islamic scholars. One of them went to Egypt. He was able to mingle with extremists and violent minds when Arab Spring spread),” he said.
The “Arab Spring” refers to the revolutionary wave of violent and non-violent demonstrations in North Africa and the Middle East that began in December 2010 in Tunisia. The effect of the Tunisian Revolt spread to five other countries: Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, and Bahrain which led to either change of regime or major uprisings.
“Iyung isa (Abdullah) nag-aral sa Jordan. Ganu’n din siguro `yung mga naging barkada niya. Du’n siya pumasok sa linkages ng mga radical extremists (The other one studied in Jordan. He must have gained the same kind of buddies. He became linked to radical extremists),” Padilla said.
He said the emergence of “Arab Spring” in the Middle East somehow influenced the Maute brothers to embrace radicalism. “That’s the beginning.”
“So meron na silang mga idea tungkol sa JI dahil nga dito kay alias Sanusi. Tapos nu’ng napunta pa sila ng Middle East lalo pang na fuel itong na mga ganong mga klaseng kaisipan. Lalo silang naging suicidal. Nakikita nila doon `yung mga extremists, radicals (So, they were able to get some ideas about JI because of Sanusi. Their travel to the Middle East further fueled this kind of thinking. They became more suicidal. They saw extremists, radicals there),” he said.
“Actually, they started out with petty crimes until Sanusi’s death. Iyung JI naluma na. So, sino bang pinakasikat noon after ng JI? Sino bang lumabas na tanyag na teroristang grupo? (JI lost its popularity. Who became popular after JI? Who came out to be the famous terrorist group)?” Padilla asked.
“Daesh and ISIS. Kaya du’n sila sumasama dahil `yu’n ang sikat e. Tapos nabalitaan na maraming resources. Siguro, iniisip nila baka matulungan din sila (They joined it because it was popular that time. Then they learned that it had many resources. They probably thought it would be able to help them financially),” he said.