Cotabato City—As soon as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front gave its commitment to support the state security forces’ campaign against terrorism, top government officials including the President “knew that half of the war” in liberating Marawi City from homegrown extremists “was already won in 2017.”
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, then Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said President Rodrigo Duterte did not ask then MILF Chairman Hadji Murad Ebrahim for anything more than peripheral vigilance to prevent entry of possible reinforcement to local extremists in May that year.
During their meeting at his office on Monday, Año recalled that Murad then committed to deploy MILF guerrillas to fight side-by-side with government forces against pseudo Islamic extremists at the start of the Marawi siege in May 2017.
Murad visited Año for the first time since he assumed the top leadership of the newly created Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao last March.
“Secretary Año revealed that when the MILF made the commitment of support, they already knew that half of the battle in liberating Marawi has been won,” BARMM Interior and Local Government Minister Naguib Sinarimbo said of the meeting.
Año said he and the President met Murad in Davao City upon their return from a shortened state visit to Russia then, when the President had to decide on launching military offensives against the Maute group holed at Marawi City’s main commercial district holding residents hostage.
“Secretary Año recalled that at that very crucial moment, he and the President were truly grateful for [Chairman Murad’s] expressed commitment to support the government by whatever means possible and necessary, including the deployment of MILF snipers and other armaments to promptly address the Marawi crisis,” said Sinarimbo.
But while the President received Murad’s gesture with much appreciation, Año said that the President merely asked the MILF chief to deploy their forces around all entry and exit points of Lanao del Sur to prevent any outward attempt to reinforce the Daesh-inspired Maute extremists.
Año was joined by Secretary Carlito Galvez of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.
Murad’s team, on the other hand, was composed of Sinarimbo, BARMM Finance Budget Minister Eduard Uy Guerra, BARMM Public Order and Safety Hussien Munoz, and Bangsamoro Transition Authority Member of Parliament (MP) Abdullah Macapaa, alia Commander Bravo.
In their meeting, Sinarimbo said Año also reiterated that the government’s campaign against corruption, illegal drugs and the fight against violent extremism needed the support of the BARMM, and to which Murad gave his assurances of priorities in governance upholding such programs of the national government.
Sinarimbo also unveiled highlights of undertakings by the BARMM’s Ministry of the Interior and Local Government under him, towards attaining more transparent- and accountability-oriented local governance in the region, including the launch of the Bangsamoro Transparency portal by Chief Minister Murad himself.
He said Año was elated to learn of the innovations reflective of the culture and tradition of the Bangsamoros introduced by the MILG in its recently sponsored transparency training-cum-orientation which culminated in a mass oath before the Qur’an, in which, newly elected local officials swore to Allah to pursue moral governance. “This covenant before Allah and the elected officials is a very powerful means of fighting corruption,” Sinarimbo said he told the DILG chief.