Increasing numbers of Islamist terrorists have indicated a willingness to lay down their arms, the Armed Forces of the Philippines has said.
“We have received feelers that members of terrorist organisations will turn themselves over to the authorities,” Joint Task Force Ranao deputy commander Colonel Romeo Brawner said during a media briefing at the Malacañang Palace today (Friday, April 6).
Col. Brawner did not provide further details but he said his task force had already sought the help of local government units (LGU) in the provinces of Lanao del Sur and del Norte.
“We have made arrangements with the LGU for them to help us in the processing, as well as in the provision of medical, financial and psychological support for the fighters,” he said.
He also attributed to the local executives and residents the task force’s efforts in recovering loose firearms, noting that these had “yielded significant gains”.
Col. Brawner added that 295 firearms had been turned over by LGU officials in Piagapo, Marantao, Masho, Maguing and Lumba-Bayabao.
“In line with this, we are encouraging the other municipalities and cities in Lanao Del Sur and Lanao Del Norte to join us in our campaign to get rid of loose firearms in our area. This will lead to a decrease in the incidents of ‘rido’ or clan wars, and also of criminality and terrorism,” he said.
Col. Brawner also urged residents to reject Islamist organisations such as the Islamic State-inspired Maute group that seized Marawi City last year.
The attack had led to a five-month war between government troops and the Islamists that left more than 1,000 people dead and more than 17 billion pesos in damage.
“We are appealing to our Maranao brothers and sisters not to allow other interest groups to agitate them into doing illegal acts or joining terrorist organisations,” Col. Brawner said.
According to the Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM), at least 75 billion pesos will be needed to rebuild the war-ravaged city.
TFBM chairman Eduardo Del Rosario said the rebuilding of Marawi’s worst-hit area was expected to begin in June and continue until the last quarter of 2021.
Meanwhile, Col. Brawner said that in recent days 1,835 families had been able to inspect their damaged homes.