By Sweet Lucman

MARAWI CITY (PIA-ICCC) – Sugarcoated words are hard to resist, according to a former member of the Maute-ISIS terrorist group.

In an interview with the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), three former members of the Maute-ISIS did not mince their words in narrating how they became members of this terror group.

Speaking on condition his identity would not be divulged, this 28-year-old Commerce graduate from Butig, Lanao del Sur, shared that his “recruiters” were very charistmatic who invited him to an Islamic seminar. He was told that he was living a sinful life and that he could only be forgiven if he would join the group and die for the sake of establishing a sinless Islamic community. Little did he know that he started to embrace the teachings peddled by this group. He admitted that his knowledge about Islam is nil, though.

“I thought they would just  establish an Islamic community, a sinless community. It was supposedly their objective,” he said.

The other two returnees were farmers from Piagapo, Lanao del Sur who joined the group after being promised to receive a monthly pay of P18,000 to 20,000.

During the Marawi siege, the three discovered that they were recruited to fight the government forces. They were just made to believe that it was all for a righteous cause.

They turned their backs on the movement, as the group’s evil face was unmasked at the height of the Marawi siege.

Birth of Maute-ISIS

The group, originally known as Dawlah Islamiya, was founded in 2012 by brothers Abdullah and Omar Maute. It was responsible for the February  and November 2016 attacks in Butig, Lanao del Sur, the 2016 Davao bombing, and the May 2017 Marawi siege.

It was reported that Abdullah and Omar were both killed during the firefight while trying to escape from the government troops. However, this extremist group is  now headed by Owayda Benito Marohombsar a.k.a. Abu Dar.

Reintegration program

Meanwhile, Captain Ron Villarosa of the Public Affairs Office of the 103rd Brigade said “the Military intends to introduce the ‘Maute-ISIS reintegration program,’ a program for social acceptability of the returnees and the general public.”

Capt. Ron Villarosa says the Maute-ISIS reintegration program will help former members to rehabilitate themselves from being part of violent extremism. (Photo by James Umaran)

 “If we can buy peace, we buy peace. The AFP will never get tired of fighting, we are made for that, but it’s the people who suffer. “Kung hindi natin sila tatanggapin at hindi pakikinggan (if we will not accept and listen to), there will be more of them, being dragged into violent extremism,” Villarosa pointed out.

“How to humanize these people is to give more time to rehabilitate them, putting character into unknown faces,” Villarosa explained.

Realization

As they fought the government troops for more than a month inside Marawi City, it dawned on them that they they were not fighting for Marawi but, instead, they were destroying it. So, these two returnees from Piagapo town left Marawi at the height of the siege, as “it was not worth it.”

“Nabili lang talaga sa hirap ng buhay (We got bought due to hardship in life),” they said.

A former member of the ISIS leaning bandits Maute group talks about his experiences during his time as a member. (Photo by James Umaran/PIA ICCC)

For the Commerce graduate, he said: “I have regrets; it’s also a step by step process of accepting na naging biktima ako sa ideolohiyang ito (I became a victim to this ideology). I realized na mali talaga yung ginagawa nila (what they did was wrong), it was way beyond their teaching. Killing was unjust. At sa tulong ng gobyerno, makakabawi din ako (With the help of the government, I can recover).”

“We were thankful to be given a window of opportunity to surrender, to correct our wrong, and to straighten our path,” he added.

“What happened in Marawi was a test for the Maranaos. After all the sufferings and the losses, let us all help each other to raise Marawi again, and let us help each other instead of fighting one another,” he concluded. (SweetLucman/PIA-ICCC)