Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana admitted Monday that they are verifying reports that foreign terrorists have entered Mindanao.
Lorenzana said the presence of foreign terrorists, if confirmed, necessitates the extension of martial law in southern Philippines.
“That is also what we got and we are trying to confirm it. That is another reason to bolster our argument sa extension ng martial law. Kung maraming pumapasok na mga foreign terrorist, then the more na we need to do it strictly sa Mindanao, ‘yung fighting against them using martial law,” he said after the Philippine Army Special Operations Command turnover ceremony.
Former AFP spokesperson Major General Restituto Padilla earlier said that foreign terrorists, including those from Malaysia and Indonesia, were involved in the Marawi siege
“In the fight that has been ongoing in Marawi, we are continuously verifying that there have been a number of them have been killed. There is certain information that we received which confirms the killing of 12 members of this group and about half of that number are foreign terrorists—Malaysians, Indonesians… That confirms the presence of these foreign terrorists,” he said.
Among the foreign terrorists were Amin Bacu, who reportedly took the place of Isnilon Hapilon as the head of the Maute-ISIS when the latter was killed in a military operation. Reports have it that he was also killed by government troops.
Indonesian national Muhammad Ilham Syahputra was arrested while trying to escape.
He told the police that Malaysian lecturer turned Maute financier Dr. Mahmud Ahmad has been killed by the troops.
For now, Lorenzana said the Armed Forces of the Philippines is going after the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters which is fighting government troops and attacking civilians.
“We are actually trying to contain ‘yung BIFF because they are the ones giving us problems now harassing civilians (and) also fighting our troops so ‘yun ang ating tinututukan ng pansin,” he said.
Lorenzana said they are now preparing a presentation for the Supreme Court if ever they will be called to defend the extension of martial law.
He said that rebellion remains in Mindanao and martial law will be necessary to quell it.
“Rebellion is actually a continuing action so if it started in May and it continued towards October then it is the belief of the AFP and the police that there is a continuing reorganization of the rebel group, rebellious forces to fight against the government and to again conduct a Marawi-type operation some time in the future,” he said.
He said some of the rebellious forces were not all killed in Marawi and a number of them were also able to extricate themselves in other parts of Mindanao.
“Some were there in Central Mindanao, some are in Lanao and the report that we are getting not only from the military but also from the police and from civilians that there are recruitment going on. There are small group training so we will address those during this martial law extension,” he said.
He reiterated that martial law is not intended for activists.
“If there is a continuing rebellion by Maute and ISIS group, we will continue to pursue the Maute- ISIS group. Now if there are other groups that would like to fight the government then we will be conducting usual normal military operations against them,” he said.
“The main purpose of extension of martial law is to eradicate once and for all the ISIS threat in our country,” he added. — RSJ, GMA News