The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday (June 9) disputed reports about the top Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon had already left the Marawi City as troops are slowly closing in on remaining villages held by the militant Maute group and its affiliates.
However, according to AFP spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla, the Task Force Marawi believes that Hapilon still remain in the City.
“We checked [this report] and the announcement of Maj. Gen Rolando Bautista, the head of Task Force Marawi, was that it was not, and has not yet been proven… They believe [Hapilon] is still there,” Padilla said.
Meanwhile, in Davao City, Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) Brigadier-General I. Gapay stated that they are now investigating how Cayamura Maute managed to slipped out Marawi City and travel all the way to Davao City where he was arrested on Tuesday.
The Maute patriarch claims he left Marawi on Sunday.
“Based on the initial inquiries we have, there are some inconsistencies (in their) stories… and this is the object of the ongoing investigation to really ascertain if they are telling the truth. But as far as the exit downwards, there are many exits in Marawi, maybe he’s (Cayamora) taken the southern route going to Malabang then Parang then Cotabato,” Mr. Gapay said.
The clashes happened in Mrawi City urged President Rodrigo Duterte to declare Martial law in Mindanao on May 23 and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, which allows the warrantless arrest of anyone suspected to be committing rebellion.
On the other hand, the military hopes to “liberate” Marawi City by Monday, June 12 which remarks the country’s 119th Independence Day.
Padilla said that the military is planning to raise flags around the city whether its main targets-Hapilon and the Maute brothers Omar and Abdullah have been arrested or not.
Earlier, the government had also announced a reward offer for the ‘neutralization’ of the terror leaders, which costs P10 million for Hapilon and P5 million each for the Maute brothers.
There have been around 202 people killed, including 134 terrorists, 38 government troops and 30 civilians. Also, 2,000 civilians are still trapped in Marawi City, while 200,000 residents have fled Marawi. Armored vehicles have brought in more Philippine army troops in a concerted effort to root out the Islamic fighters.