By MASIDING NOOR YAHYA and ASA T. MADALE
January 25, 2019
MARAWI CITY, Lanao del Sur: Two Maute-IS members, one a child warrior, surrendered to elements of 49th “Good Samaritans” Infantry Battalion based in Butig municipality, Lanao del Sur Thursday afternoon.
The surrender came amidst focused-military operations in the adjacent municipality of Sultan Dumalandong.
The two returnees, named Hussein, 17 and Ashlani, 34, were recruited and trained by the Maute brothers sometime in 2013 at Barangay (Village) Sandab in Butig.
According to Lt Col Edgar Allan S Villanueva, Commanding Officer of the 49th Infantry Battalion, the duo surrendered in fear that they might be targeted for the next military operations.
“Takot kami na baka isunod nalang kami sa operation. Iniwan nalang kami ng mga leader pagkatapos nung encounter namin. Wala narin kami matakbuhan kaya sumuko nalang kami” (We were afraid that we will be operated on next. We were left by our leaders after one of our encounters. We have nowhere to run so we opted to surrender), said Ashlani.
Their surrender was facilitated by the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Post (JCMP) and the local community.
Relationships between the military and the local populace were also positively reinforced through intensified Civil-Military Operations conducted by units in the area.
“We have intensified our Civil-Military Operations to build a good rapport with the populace in the area,” Villanueva said.
“Out here, it is not just about fighting the enemy, but also how to win communities – and that truly made a big impact when it comes to the accomplishing our mission,” Villanueva pointed out.
The returnees expressed their fear of government troops but were convinced to lay down their arms after referring to other locals.
“Nung una, natatakot kami na magsurender dahil baka saktan nila kami, pero sabi naman samin ng mga tao na mabait naman daw ang mga sundalo sa area. Masaya kami dahil tinatrato kami ng maayos ng ating kasundaluhan.” (At first we were afraid to surrender because the soldiers might hurt us, but we were told that soldiers in the area were kind. We are happy that we are being treated well by our soldiers) Ashlani remarks.
“Ngayon na nagsurrender na kami, makakatulog na kami at ang pamiliya namin ng maayos. Kung kailangan na panagutan namin ang ginawa namin, tatanggapin namin ang kapalaran namin” (Now that we have surrendered, we can sleep well without worrying about our and our family’s safety, if we have to face justice, then we will accept our fate) the returnee notes.
Col Romeo Brawner, Jr.,103rd Infantry Brigade Commander, said that they were giving them a chance to live a peaceful and meaningful life. “We are calling on the remaining Maute-IS fighters to surrender peacefully to the nearest military installation before the next combat operations fall into their doorsteps. Take this offer now before it’s too late,” he added.
“The armed encounter is the result of our relentless campaign against Maute ISIS remnants and Abu Dar group,” Said Maj. Gen. Roseller Murillo,1st Infantry Division and JTF Zampelan Commander.
“We also ask the local populace for their trust, support and prayers for our troops who are still in the area to neutralize the remaining Maute ISIS remnants who continuously threaten the safety and well being of Meranaos,” He added.
Meanwhile, the flux of Maute-IS returnees-now numbering to more than a hundred prompted the 103rd Brigade to initiate a special program to cater for returnees.
“We are on the preliminary stages of implementing a reintegration program for the Maute-IS returnees,” noted Brawner, Commander of the 103rd Brigade based in Marawi City.
Col. Brawner, a former commander of the Civil Military Operations Regiment, is no new to collaboration and civic engagements. “We are pooling up partners for the program. It will start with comprehensive profiling of our returnees to know their background, identify their needs and vulnerabilities. It also includes interviews as to why the joined the movement.”
Brawner said that the program will serve as a basis on projects that will be implemented to vulnerable communities and prevent them to be dragged to violent extremism.
“We will use the data as a definitive reference to give us access on the psychological of local Maute-IS returnee. So far, we have been adapting foreign literature on how to combat violent extremism, and it may not necessarily apply to our country due to cultural difference,” the brigade commander said.
Going after the Maute-IS remnants was among Col Brawner’s stated priorities when he took over 103rd Brigade last December 2018.
“We will employ an arsenal of both lethal and non-lethal means to dissuade our enemies to fight. The lesser engagements we have, the better if they chose to resist, then they will at the lethal and of-our focused military operations,” said Brawner. (RSP)