By Ali G. Macabalang
Cotabato City – Money, and not ideology, was the prime motive why Islamist radicals tried to seize control of Marawi City.
This was disclosed by Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Vice Governor Haroun Al-Rashid Lucman, a native resident of Marawi City and icon of two prominent Maranao political clans in Lanao del Sur, who said that his assessment was based on the initial evaluation of relief workers of the ARMM’s Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), which he heads.
“As it appeared in our preliminary field appraisals, the Marawi siege (perpetrators) were not principally motivated by their so-called Islamic ideology, but (by) desire for money and resources (needed in) sustained operations,” he told reporters at the sidelines of the recent celebration here of the ARMM’s 28th foundation anniversary.
Lucman did not give details, although there were reports that the Islamist radicals, led by brothers Abdullah and Omar Maute as well as Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, ransacked the branches of the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Philippine National Bank in Marawi City in the early days of the siege.
Shortly after staging the siege on May 23 this year, the militants also reportedly barged into houses of known local loan-lenders and divested huge amounts of cash.
The close to P80-million cash and checks discovered in June by Marine troops from one of the houses occupied by militants was just “part” of the monetary loots of the Islamic State (IS) ideology- espousing radicals, sources said.
Meanwhile, Lucman urged the Duterte administration to include in its vow to “correct historical injustice” among Moro people an amendment in the Commonwealth government’s declaration of some 80 percent of Marawi land area as military reservation.
Marawi City has a total land area of 8,755 hectares or 87.55 square kilometers. The American-led Commonwealth government declared 6,000 hectares covering largely the land of the city (formerly Dansalan) and parts of adjacent Marantao and Piagapo towns in Lanao del Sur as a military reservation.
How the “Americans unilaterally made the declaration” that was sustained in 1953, 1956 and 1974 by past Presidents in separate proclamations is “not acceptable” to present generation of Maranao leaders, Lucman said.
“As Maranao natives, we will fight it out through the court and other peaceful forums,” said the official, who a cousin to incumbent Lanao Sur Governor Soraya Adiong and son of former governor Tarhata Alonto-Lucman and late Rep. Rashid Lucman Sr.
Maranao members of the ARMM’s regional legislature including Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong had warned that turning the Marawi area into a military reservation would exacerbate problems with hundreds of thousands of people, mostly belonging to the same ethnic Muslim tribe, displaced by the militants’ siege.
“We do not see any way that the civilian authorities will just sit down and just do nothing,” Adiong once said, referring to earlier reports that national defense authorities would distribute the military reservation area.
Recently, however, Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., deputy commander of the Joint Task Force Ranao, had assured that the “military will not claim any land that it does not need.”
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