Duterte claims Marawi crisis erupted after drug bust, not anti-terror raid

Marawi drug trade
President Duterte on a recent visit to war-torn Marawi.

President Duterte has claimed that the Marawi crisis erupted after after an attempt to arrest a drug lord.

The suggestion is at odds with the consistent version of events that says it the fighting began on May 23 after an attempt to capture Isnilon Hapilon, the regional representative of so-called Islamic State.

“The Marawi war was ignited by the service of a summon and a warrant of arrest of one of the drug lords there,” the president said in a speech to the Philippine Constitution Association on Tuesday (September 26).

“There was a firefight and that started the rebellion. And I was really aghast to know that until now, they have so many bullets, ordnance and everything that the fight is still going on,” he added.

Speaking on the night that fighting broke out, Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said: “A firefight ensued and our troops reacted properly, but as of tonight, in the Philippines, the Maute group burned several facilities in the city.”

The chaos in the city prompted the president to place the entire island of Mindanao under martial law.

Hapilon, an Abu Sayyaf commander with a $5 million FBI bounty on his head, is wanted for the of foreigners in the Philippines.

The president has previously claimed that drugs were behind the Marawi crisis, claiming in June that “Christians and the Moro, who were into shabu sought sanctuary among the terrorists for protection and to ensure the success of their business.”

Marawi drug trade claims

Last week, the president released a “drug matrix” [schematic diagram] of politicians and alleged drug lords he claims have financed the siege.

He also claimed that slain Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog was one of those who funded the terrorists, alongside unnamed local officials.

In July, government forces announced the discovery of 11 kilograms of shabu during clearing operations in Marawi.

A few days later, authorities seized two kilos of the drug in the house of former Marawi Mayor Omar Solitario Ali. A presidential spokesman said this affirmed the link between the ongoing crisis in the city and the drug trade.