Philippine Army chief Lieutenant General Rolando Bautista on Tuesday said the recruitment of ISIS-influenced groups is still ongoing one year after the Maute-ISIS fighters laid siege on Marawi City, like reported by gmanetwork.com.
Bautista said terrorists organizations such as the Abu Sayyaf, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and Khilafa Islamiyah Mindanao are still present in southern Philippines and pose danger to Filipinos.
“Nakita namin na yung fragments ng mga ISIS-influenced are still recruiting kasi alam natin na although yung Maute-ISIS group have been reduced in terms of strength and capability, meron tayong Abu Sayyaf Group, meron tayo yung BIFF, meron tayo yung Khilafa Islamiyah Mindanao which is short of saying na meron din silang influence ng ISIS,” Bautista said.
He, however, said these terrorist groups will take “more or less three to five years” to stage another siege like the five-month long encounter in Marawi.
Bautista also said the military learned a new form of terrorism — sleeper cells — from the Maute-ISIS group which is a form of lone wolf tactic that can create terrorist activities in multiple locations.
“Yung ISIS cells dun makikita mo meron sa Baguio, meron sa Dagupan, meron sa Tarlac, Pangasinan, sa Visayas naman meron sa Samar, meron sa Cebu and so forth, so kung mag-orchestrate uli sila ng sinasabi nating terrorist activities, it might be in the form of lone wolf,” Bautista said.
“‘Pag in-activate ‘yun puwedeng sabay-sabay silang mag-create ng terrorist activities. For example one or two, mag-conduct sila ng explosion sa isang area and yung sa Cebu assassination, liquidation that will create a big impact although two or three persons lang ang gumagawa. ‘Yun yung most probable na strategy nila in the meantime,” he added.
Bautista, however, said the declaration of martial law in Mindanao helped the military in its hunt for terrorists. He said this allowed them to detain and hasten the background checks on suspected terrorists even if they are foreign nationals.
According to Bautista, they were also allowed to conduct inspections in suspected areas where improvised explosive devices and ammunition are allegedly manufactured.
He was proud to say there were no complaints of human rights violations during military operations against suspected terrorists during and after the Marawi siege.
“Ang bottom line dito is during the Marawi campaign there was zero human right violations. Yun ang na-prove natin sa ating mga kababayan na kahit na may martial law, still hindi natin aabusuhin yung authority na binigay sa ating mga government forces,” Bautista said.