PRESIDENTIAL Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza said Sunday he recommended to the Defense Department to give “clearance to travel” to former Marawi City mayor Omar Solitario, who has a standing arrest order over his alleged links to the illegal drugs trade.
“Even before Marawi erupted, former Mayor Omar Solitario contacted me about possible incidents involving the Mautes as his brother, also former mayor Pre Salic, was a relative by affinity of the Mautes in Lanao, Dureza said.
He made his statement even as the police in Ozamiz City arrested a town mayor in Lanao del Norte for illegal possession of firearms.
A News TV Live report identified the official as Lorenzo Manigos of Kolambugan in Lanao del Norte.
The report said two 9mm pistols, two .45 pistols and three grenades were seized from Manigos and his two bodyguards, and that the firearms had expired licenses.
Dureza said Solitario had volunteered to help the OPAPP [Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process], then provided support in putting back in operation a local radio station to advise listeners how to counter violent extremism. He even published a small book on how to deal with violent extremism.
“I also arranged a Davao meeting with the President where he offered help. After the meeting, I got him on a consultancy arrangement with OPAPP,” Dureza said.
“When Marawi erupted, he was sending me timely situation updates and asked if he could initiate talks with the Mautes. After consulting others, I advised him to first refrain from dealing with them as the situation was still fluid, and consistent with government policy that we cannot undertake peace talks with plain terrorists.
“Subsequently, when his name was included in the arrest orders pursuant to the declaration of martial law, I revoked his consultancy arrangement with OPAPP. He later informed me that he left Marawi City and stayed in a safe sanctuary outside the city but he kept in touch, making suggestions on how to deal with the developing incidents. He was distressed why his name was included in the list.
“At one time, when the President was in Cagayan de Oro monitoring Marawi, I arranged his phone call with the President. The President told him over the phone that he instead should talk to me. So I continued handling him.
“Later on, I was informed that there was an arrangement for him to meet with National Defense Secretary [Delfin] Lorenzana to discuss how he could help the government. Since his name was still on the arrest order and in order to enable him to meet with the Defense secretary in Iligan City or in Marawi, I recommended that a clearance from the SND be issued to allow him to safely travel to meet the SND for the purpose considering there were AFP checkpoints and his name was on the arrest list.
‘‘I talked with Secretary Lorenzana and I was told that a clearance for him was being issued, including his two sons [the latter two not being included in my representations as I did not know them and their activities].
“During our Cabinet security cluster meeting at Camp Aguinaldo, I was furnished copies of the clearances signed by Secretary Lorenzana and I emailed the copies to former Iligan mayor Franklin Quijano to pass them on to Omar Solitario. I also later called Solitario and told him that he should directly arrange the planned meeting with SND as OPAPP does not get involved in AFP operational matters.”