THE military confirmed on Thursday the transfer to a jail in Taguig City of the arrested patriarch of the Maute brothers who attacked Marawi City, because of the possibility militants might try to spring him out of jail in Mindanao.
Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr., spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), said Cayamora Maute, who is considered a “high-value target,” was transferred to Bicutan in Taguig past midnight on Thursday.
“This is for their (Maute and companions) own safety because Mindanao might be dangerous [for them]. But here in Manila, we will be able to better secure them,” Padilla said, adding that Cayamora’s arrest stemmed from an existing warrant for supporting criminal and rebellious activities of the Islamic State-linked Maute group.
The military however braced for retaliatory or diversionary attacks by the Maute following the arrest of Cayamora, an engineer.
In a news conference in Davao City, Brig. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, deputy commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command and spokesman for the implementation of martial law in Mindanao, warned of risks wherever the Maute patriarch was detained.
“We cannot discount the risk wherever he (Cayamora) is, because we know how the Maute group operates. And we are prepared for that, our security forces, for any eventualities like this,” Gapay told reporters.
“If we look at how Maute group operates, there was one instance when they rescued ordinary members of the group in Marawi. And what more Cayamora who is the head of the clan,” he added.
On Tuesday, Cayamora, the father of Omar and Abdullah Maute, was arrested at a checkpoint in Davao City on a Toyota Grandia van, which was stopped by authorities manning the area.
Also nabbed was his daughter Norjannah, second wife Kongan Alfonso Maute, son in law Bensarali Tingao, and vehicle driver Aljon Salazar Ismael.
They were initially brought to the Davao City Police Office. Based on the police report, the group came from Cotabato City and was en route to Davao City, because the Maute patriarch was scheduled for a medical check-up.
Cayamora and the others were transferred to a Bureau of Jail Management and Penology facility inside Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City, at around 1 a.m. Thursday.
They arrived in Metro Manila at 12:10 a.m., escorted by military and police officers.
Cayamora is facing five counts of kidnapping and serious illegal detention while his daughter Norhana has a standing warrant for illegal possession of blasting caps, issued by the Regional Trial Court in Malabang, Lanao del Sur.
Padilla said that Cayamora played an important role in some of the illegal activities of the Maute group.
“Based on the reports we received, [Cayamora] was seen somewhere in Marawi directing the operations or the attacks being done [by the Maute] in that city now,” the military spokesman said.
Nearly 200 people have been reported killed since militants flying black flags of the Islamic State group went on a rampage in Marawi, the main Muslim city in the predominantly Catholic Philippines, on May 23.
While much of the focus has been on the hundreds of gunmen reportedly involved, authorities said Thursday that they had been receiving support from local politicians and residents.
The ex-mayor of Marawi was arrested Wednesday evening at a police checkpoint in Villanueva town, Misamis Oriental for supporting the attack (See story on A1).
“It’s a combination of names of politicians, private citizens and members of Maute, the leaders,” military chief of staff General Eduardo Año said on ABS-CBN television as he discussed a list of about 200 people wanted for helping the gunmen.
Año said the Marawi crisis will be resolved before the implementation of martial law ends.
“It would be over even before the 60 days provision of martial law [in Mindanao],” he said in a television interview on Thursday.
Año noted that the military will also confront other terrorist groups such as the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu and Basilan, as well as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Central Mindanao.
WITH CATHERINE S. VALENTE AND AFP