Government troops have been ordered to secure mosques and other places of worships in the wake of threats from extremist groups as the observance of the holy month of Ramadan started on Saturday.
“All our personnel in the Western Mindanao [Command] (WestMinCom) were ordered to carry out security measures to ensure that the vicinity of mosques (masjids) will be secured and the Islamic faithful will be free free to go there to exercise their religion,” Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., WestMinCom chief said.
In his Ramadan message, Galvez also gave the assurance that the military was taking all the necessary precautions to prevent collateral damage in its efforts to flush out the remaining members of the Maute group in Marawi City.
Ramadan is a holy month of fasting, introspection and prayers for the followers of Islam.
“As fighting continues in Marawi, our units are constrained to launch airstrikes to identified specific targets occupied by the Maute/IS terrorist group,” Galvez said.
“The terrorists’ actions prevent their fellow Muslims from peacefully and solemnly observing Ramadan as they continue to occupy buildings and structures in Marawi City. They serve to impede our troops in restoring peace and order in that city,” he added.
“These terrorist atrocities continue (to) sow terror and confusion even among non-combatant Muslims and Christians. Establishments remain non-operational and government services are unavailable causing extreme deprivation and hardships to the people,” Galvez said.
He added that normally, a Ramadan break was granted to Muslim soldiers but for now they need to make sacrifices to ensure that Islam believers from Marawi City could return home soon and observe the holy month.
The fighting in Marawi City started on May 23 when Maute group members laid siege on the city after government troops raided the hideout of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, whom the group is protecting.
Meanwhile, Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella on Saturday said electricity services in Marawi City have been almost fully restored following reports that Lanao del Sur Electric Cooperative (Lasureco) was occupied by the Maute bandits.
“The government, through its Inter-Agency Task Force on Securing Energy Facilities, has secured the Lanao del Sur Electric Cooperative compound, and the National Electrification Administration and Lasureco have reported that 95 percent of electricity service has been restored in Marawi,” Abella said.
The Palace official also told the media to be more discerning in reporting information from the ground.
“Given the gravity of the situation in Marawi City, we urge the public to remain calm and not to spread unverified or incomplete news items, even as we urge media practitioners not to report such items that can easily be misinterpreted or sensationalized,” he added.
The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines initially reported a lower electricity demand in Lanao del Sur reaching only 5 megawatts (MW) on Wednesday, which increased to 11 MW on Thursday, lower than the usual demand of 17 MW.
When the Maute Group started occupying Marawi on Tuesday, a blackout hit the city.
BY CATHERINE S. VALENTE AND PNA