• Did the MILF know about the IS-linked Maute plan to take over Marawi?

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    RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO

    RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO

    DUTERTE MUST CONVENE THE NSC
    I AM convinced so, for the following reasons, and it is a conclusion that has vast implications for long-term peace in Mindanao and for the formulation of a strategy against IS-linked groups in that region.

    The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has had a vast network in the Lanao area ever since it was established as a coalition of the Maranao and Maguindanao forces that broke away in 1976 from the secularist Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

    It would have been impossible for the MILF leaders not to have known that the “Islamic State-Ranao” led by Omarkhayam Romato Maute was stockpiling arms, ammunition, and food supplies in Marawi City most probably for a year before it openly tried to capture the country’s only Islamic city starting May 23.

    Initial reports that the crisis broke out after the military pursued Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon in the city after receiving reports that he was there, have proven false. The military itself had released a video of the two Maute brothers Omar and Abudullah meeting with Hapilon, purportedly appointed by the IS council as its “emir” (leader) for the country, planning their attempt at a takeover of Marawi days before it occurred. The takeover of Marawi City was to be the Philippine IS-affiliated group’s demonstration that the IS is upon the country.

    Also significant is the fact that, as the Indonesia-based International Policy Analysis of Conflict’s (IPAC) in-depth study of the IS-linked groups in the region pointed out, “the Maute connections reach deep into the MILF aristocracy.”

    Omar and Abdullah Maute are cousins of the second wife of the late Alim Mimbantaas, who had been the MILF’s vice chairman for internal affairs and was said to be the most trusted associate of MILF founder Salamat Hashim.

    100 MILF fighters
    The IPAC even claimed that because of their connections with the MILF, the Maute group had been able to recruit at least 100 MILF fighters, one of whom was the late Mimbantaas’ son Alim, killed in a battle with the military last year. Butig, Lanao del Sur, where the Maute group now operates, has been home for years to a large MILF camp, Camp Bushra, according to the IPAC study.

    It would be the height of naïveté to think that the MILF was unaware of the IS-linked group’s plan to take over Marawi City, just as it is as naïve to believe that the insurgent group’s forces had not been involved in the massacre of 44 Special Forces troops in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, in 2015.

    Screen shot from a video showing IS-linked groups planning their siege of Marawi. Isnilon Hapilon, allegedly the IS’ ‘emir’ for the Philippines, is at the center.

    Did the MILF let the IS-linked groups undertake their plan to take over Marawi City, or even help them, to remind government that it has to rush a peace agreement with it, so it could take over responsibility for peace and order in the “Bangsamoro” territory that would most likely include Marawi City?

    Since government has been told that the MILF rejects the kind of jihadism the IS espouses, it should demand that the insurgent group undertake a comprehensive plan to counter such jihadism, and even undertake its own military operations to neutralize these terrorist groups.

    That might sound too much to demand of the MILF, to fight ideologically and militarily its fellow militant Muslims. But then the MILF’s demand—for the government to practically secede to it a territory in which it will be a state—is even steeper.

    Such a demand should be only one item of a comprehensive plan for the Duterte administration to prevent the IS from getting a foothold, which would require it to totally exterminate the four terrorist groups in the country that are becoming united under the IS flag, namely:

    • The Basilan-based faction of the Hapilon led Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) led by Isnilon Hapilon, which now has a small number of foreign fighters, mostly from Malaysia;

    • Ansarul Khilafah Philippines (AKP) led by Mohammad Jaafar Maguid out of Sarangani and Sultan Kudarat provinces, which has ties to Indonesian jihadists;

    • The Maute Group, also known as IS-Ranao, based in Lanao del Sur; and the

    • Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), based in the Liguasan Marsh, Maguindanao, and a splinter group of the MILF which has and has had close ties to Southeast Asian jihadists.

    Comprehensive plan needed
    Other items in such a comprehensive plan against the groups linking with the IS would be:

    • Closely monitoring the madrasah (Islamic) schools to find out if these, as in other Southeast Asian countries, have become venues for the radicalization of young Muslims into the jihadism;

    • Using the Anti- Money Laundering Council to monitor fund transfers from abroad to the IS-linked terror groups, which would require some legal maneuvers so the AMLC could do this even without court orders;

    • Requiring the Bureau of Immigration to undertake tighter monitoring of foreigners from Indonesian and Malaysia, as well as from the Middle East coming into the country; and

    • Tightening the patrol of our porous borders with Malaysia and Indonesia, to more closely monitor the entry of foreigners through the sea.

    These of course are proposals by an amateur. Duterte has to convene the National Security Council—or even the Council of State—to formulate a comprehensive plan against the IS-linked groups. With past Presidents being members of the NSC, and even the opposition invited, that would also be an opportunity for Duterte to unite the country, or at least to show that we are as a nation united against the global scourge of the IS.

    Because we have huge insurgent groups in the Philippines—the MILF, remnants of the MNLF, and the communist New People’s Army—and because government apparatus have been weak in central Mindanao as well as the Basilan and Sulu islands, these areas are likely to be where an IS routed in Syria and Iraq would try to seek refuge.

    The lesson, or realization of the five-week-old Marawi crisis is that the IS is upon us, something which the Benigno Aquino 3rd strived to underestimate in his pipe dream to strike a peace agreement with the MILF at all costs, just so he’d get a Nobel Prize.

    Email: tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com
    Facebook: Rigoberto Tiglao
    Twitter: @bobitiglao

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    10 Comments

    1. The fight against the Moros have been there even before the Medieval Period. The only way you can fight a belief is to supplant the belief and this will take more than just one generation. But at least, the country can start now. Education and values are what has to be ingrained with the younger generation and this will need a close coordination with the Department of Education. It took more than a century before the aremikans supplanted the culture and values of the red Indians who were the original people of that continent before the coming of Columbus. Are there still younger aremikans now singing the Indian songs or practising their voodoo ways?

    2. Again, thank you for this analysis. The likes of you can be grouped amongst the courageous and ever patriotic generals and their soldiers and policemen. At times like these when teachers can teach the difference between “patriotism” and “nationalism.” May the Palace also award newspaperpersons who do well for the country as the Pres. Duterte gives awards, in cash and in kind to “fallen” as well as “honored” peace enforcer. Mabuhay po kayo! Sec. Andanar must see to this suggestion.

    3. How to create peace and prosperity in Mindanao ? Drive the terrorists tribe away out of the land. Then populate the land with Non-terrorists tribe. It’s the only way as was done in the days of conquering Kings. Change the inhabitants of the land.

    4. SABAH! SABAH! SABAH! that is the root cause of this violence in the south. UK is still the real owner of Sabah not Malaysia. The transfer of Sabah to Malaysia is just cosmetic when UK gave thsem independence. For all intents and purposes UK still retains the invisible control of the island. Sabah is were Malaysia is now extracting it’s oil produced but bulk of the revenue share goes to UK. It is a golden egg laying goose for UK so it won’t give it up. US and UK are eternal partner and UK regards US as still its colony.

      The real purpose of UK is to have Mindanao be ruled by these Muslim group which they can dictate upon because they actually clandestinely finance, armed and trained these groups. If these Muslim groups achieved their objective in having an independent state of Mindanao, they will immediately drop their claim on Sabah. It’s very clear in the last administration peace talks with the MILF, the venue was held in Malaysia and the US ambassador was always there attending and giving inputs to the talk. These armed Muslims group are nothing but foot soldiers of US which is being used to achieved the vested interest of US vis-a-vis UK. Remember the last active US military intervention was in Mamasapano. They have all the sophisticated intelligence gathering devices with their drone flying overhead as witnessed by the residents. Despite of this, it resulted to the massacre of 44 SAF OPERATIVES. What happened to the intelligence gathered by the US military? was it passed to the MILF so they can set up a trap and ambushed our soldiers. Why was the military radio not working? instead these SAF operatives used cellphones. Did the US military present there used highly sophisticated jammers to block any communications between the field soldiers and their headquarters and vice-versa. Our artillery was not used because they don’t have the exact location of both sides having firefight. Our field soldiers cannot relay location data because their radios are not working,

      In wanting to have a real peace in Mindanao and the whole nation, just think of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen and Syria, were both US and UK are main actors in support of the rebels in that region.

    5. Our govt.is really so naive by thinking that we have a common agenda of unifying the country by peace talk.Cant’ they get it?They want their own country.Gosh!!!!

    6. For many years we have been talking to have a peace agreement with the Moros but it was never achieved. Peace with the Moros in Mindanao will never be achieved. Bright people would say there is nothing impossible in this world but I would say peace with the Moros is the first to be impossible in this world. Even if a peace agreement would be signed it will not last because after the Moros would become militarily strong because of their autonomous power their next demand would be independence for the whole of Mindanao. You are right let us not be naive the Moros will always support one another Moros group. The Moros politicians and civilians will declare to the media their support to the Philippine government but behind their backs they will always support their Moros brothers. They themselves kill one another, they just love to fight. The Spaniards, the Americans and now the Philippine government were never successful in achieving peace in Mindanao.

      To have peace in Mindanao will entail great sacrifice and a strong leader. President Duterte stay healthy and remain President because until now nobody can replace you as a strong President. President Duterte the trillions that you will spend in your build build program will not be very effective if there is no peace. What you do is use this money to strengthen the AFP. Buy many patrol boats to patrol every corner of the seas around Mindanao to prevent the entry of terrorist aids from Malaysia and Indonesia. Watch Malaysia carefully. Buy fighter planes, tanks and artilleries, rifles and ammunitions. Recruit more christians to be soldiers. Then once your AFP is strong compiscate all firearms of the MILF, MNLF, BIFF ASG, etc. including all firearms of the Moros civilians and politicians. For sure there is going to be war but after the storm there is calmness. You will not be able to achieve this in six years so stay healthy
      and declare martial law. In martial law to have the support of the people you must see to it that your martial law administrator and implementor are not abusive- they should be able to discipline their soldiers not to abuse for the common goal is to control the Moros and make them understand not to make trouble with the republic and just do business to improve the economic lives of the Moros.

      As of now in Marawi go ahead confiscate all the firearms there. Rehabilitate Marawi.

      Alternatives in Marawi:

      1. Tell all Christians to leave Marawi but impose on the Moros in Marawi to do peaceful business. Strictly impose a firearms free Marawi. AFP, PNP, NBI should heartily monitor this.

      2. Divide Marawi into two sections, one for Christians and one for the Moros. Tell them to do business with each other and respect each other. Otherwise they can just fight to death, matira ang matibay.

      Once you have a free firearms Mindanao and generally there is peace then you do the build build program- this time you monitor the corrupt government and civilian businessmen na naman.

      Ah, easier said than done but with your strong hands Mr. President you can do it. Try it.

    7. I think you make some very good and sound proposals. And very astute observations as usual.

      The administration opened its term by holding out an olive branch to the various armed groups. Perhaps it is now time to decide who we are really at peace with and with whom we are at war. If we are not at peace, then we must be at war. And as much as I prefer peace, there cannot be a half-hearted war against the likes of IS.

      IS may believe that they can have more fun in the Philippines. The time to disprove that is now.

    8. “Duterte has to convene the National Security Council—or even the Council of State—to formulate a comprehensive plan against the IS-linked groups. With past Presidents being members of the NSC, and even the opposition invited, that would also be an opportunity for Duterte to unite the country, or at least to show that we are as a nation united against the global scourge of the IS.”

      There is no need to invite former president Noynoy Aquino. Wala ka namang makukuhang matinong idea sa kanya. Pareho sila ni former president Cory Aquino. both of them are clueless and just strengthened the enemies of the state.

      Cory Aquino brought back from exile MNLF leader Nur Misuari, gave him big propaganda and media mileage, and Misuari used the so-called peace talks to recruit moro rebels in fighting the Philippine government. Misuari was even surrounded by armed bodyguards when Misuari and former senator Butz Aquino gave a press conference.

      Cory Aquino brought back Nur Misuari from oblivion, even when then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile, AFP Chief of Staff Fidel Ramos, Vice-President Salvador “Doy” Laurel had advised Cory not to bring Misuari back to the Philippines for the so-called peace talks. We would not have this problems with the moro rebels if Cory hadn’t brought Nur Misuari back to the Philippines.

      Noynoy Aquino pampered the MILF and even gave millions of pesos as goodwill money before the start of the so-called peace talks in Japan. Noynoy was even willing to dismember Mindanao provinces from the Philippines in order to get the coveted Nobel Peace Prize Award.

      If you can see the videos taken in the early 1980’s, Muslims were even invited in Malacanang in some important events during the Marcos administration. Muslim imams and Christian pastors even led the prayers before Marcos delivered his speech.

      • Cory Aquino is one of the most incompetent president in modern history of Asia. The Filipino people tend to elect using emotions and name brand. Corruptions and kidnapping increases under her term and worsen under Ramos term. There has never been a country in Asia like the Philippines where immigration people asked you money indirectly when you enter the country. On the first step in entering the Philippines, one is already face with corruption in the immigration counter. This disappear under Estrada term.

        Political dynasty is very rampant in Philippines due to people electing brand name.

        Duterte was wrong to allow any forces outside of government forces to accumulate so much arms.

    9. Bravo Ambassador Tiglao! I truly enjoy reading your analytical articles that delve on current issues instead of hammering President Duterte on his every move which I find a waste of precious time and space, which some columnists seem to relish.

      Thank you and more power, Josefina