Duterte's report to Congress: Maute preparing groundwork for establishment of ISIS in Mindanao
President Rodrigo Duterte has justified his declaration of martial law in Mindanao, saying the atrocities shown by the foreign-assisted Maute Group in Marawi City were not simply a display of force but to establish the seat of power for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
This was contained in the 7-page report that he submitted to both Houses of Congress as mandated by the Constitution for his proclamation of martial law and suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.
"These activities constitute not simply a display of force, but a clear attempt to establish the group's seat of power in Marawi City for their planned establishment of a DAESH (ISIS) wilayat or province covering the entire Mindanao," he said.
The Maute militants burned hospital, school, church, and city jail among others when they started occupying Marawi on May 23. They also raised the flag of ISIS in those areas.
"This sudden taking of control was intended to lay the groundwork for the eventual establishment of a DAESH (al-Dawla al-Islamiya al-Iraq wa al-Sham)," Duterte said.
He said occupying Marawi City fulfills a strategic objective because of its terrain and the easy access it provides to other parts of Mindanao.
Lawless armed groups have historically used provinces adjoining Marawi City as escape routes, supply lines, and backdoor passages, he noted.
"Considering the network and alliance-building activities among terrorist groups, local criminals, and lawless armed men, the siege of Marawi City is a vital cog in attaining their long standing goal: absolute control over the entirety of Mindanao," the President said.
He cited in the report to Congress that based on verified intelligence reports, the Maute Group, as of the end of 2016, consisted of around 263 members, fully armed and prepared to wage combat in furtherance of its aim.
The group chiefly operates in the province of Lanao del Sur, but has extensive networks and linkages with foreign and local armed groups such as the Jemaah Islamiyah, Mujahidin Indonesia Timur and the local Abu Sayyaf Group.
Duterte noted that foreign-based terrorist groups, ISIS in particular, as well as illegal drug money, provide financial and logistical support to Maute.
With the declaration of martial law, he expressed belief that the problem could immediately be addressed.
"These circumstances demand swift and decisive action to ensure the safety and security of the Filipino people and preserve our national integrity," he said.
Solicitor General Jose Calida expressed belief that Congress would support Duterte's proclamation of martial law, saying "the facts are very substantial."
He was also optimistic that when somebody questions the constitutionality of the proclamation before the Supreme Court, its legality would be upheld.
"If any citizen will challenge it in the Supreme Court, we are confident, and I am confident that we will be able to prove that there was substantial basis, factual basis," he said.
On Monday, Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rudy Farinas will inform the plenary it will convene in a committee of the whole for the martial law briefing. The Senate is expected to tackle Duterte’s report also on Monday. Celerina Monte/DMS