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Lanao execs nix plan to arm residents vs Maute

/ 12:30 AM December 15, 2016
Soldiers inspect a foxhole used by snipers of the Maute terror group when they took over Butig town in Lanao del Sur province. —RICHEL V. UMEL

Soldiers inspect a foxhole used by snipers of the Maute terror group when they took over Butig town in Lanao del Sur province. —RICHEL V. UMEL

COTABATO CITY—Members of the Maute terror group have threatened to burn Marawi City amid pressure from military operations, but officials of Lanao del Sur province have rejected proposal to arm residents to defend themselves from attacks.

Lanao del Sur Gov. Soraya Alonto-Adiong, Vice Gov. Mamintal Adiong Jr., Butig Mayor Dimnatang Pansar and Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra all turned down the proposal, which first came up during a meeting with residents and officials in Butig.

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On Nov. 24, armed men belonging to the Maute group, led by brothers Abdullah and Omar Maute, stormed Butig and took over an old town hall, a mosque and a madrassa (Islamic school). It took the military six days to regain control of Butig, which saw 61 rebels dead and at least 35 soldiers wounded.

Reports said 2,500 families, or over 12,000 people, fled their homes during the fighting.

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Governor Adiong said arming residents to fight the Maute group would only promote the formation of militias, which would most likely result in cases of human rights violations.

Instead, Adiong urged communities to cooperate with law enforcers and exercise vigilance.

“We need the cooperation of every individual, group, and organization for us to fight this growing concern,” Adiong said during the international human right’s day celebration at the provincial capitol last week.

But even after Butig Mayor Pansar shot down the proposal, residents in other towns of Lanao del Sur continued to endorse it, following the terror group’s threat to burn Marawi, the provincial capital, if military operations continue.

Gandamra said several groups in his city wanted the government to allow civilians to arm themselves after hearing the threat, but he rejected these proposals.

“We should strengthen partnerships with law enforcement agencies instead,” he said. “Everyone should uphold peace and promote protection of basic human rights.”

Vice Governor Adiong said the government should require the registration of all madaris (Islamic schools) in the province to ensure that young Maranaos “get the right Islamic education.”

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“This is not to say that madaris are producing extremists, because we do not know where these people (extremists) are coming from,” he said.

He said the proposed registration with the Department of Education would ensure that students get the right lessons and participate in extracurricular activities required under the Refined Elementary Madrasah Curriculum (REMC).

He said the REMC had been developed, reviewed refined and evaluated by DepEd in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) from 2010 to 2011.

Earlier, the ARMM’s Humanitarian Emergency Action Response Team (ARMM-Heart), assisted evacuees from Butig and nearby Lumbayanague town.

The residents were forced to flee their communities after some houses were burned by Maute gang members while other structures caught fire when these were hit by shelling from government troops and the rebels.

The ARMM government had promised to help the Lanao del Sur government and the affected towns in rebuilding.

ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman earlier said the regional government has asked the military to station soldiers in Butig to prevent the return of gang members and to reassure residents that they would protect them. —NASH B. MAULANA

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TAGS: ARMM, Butig, Lanao del Sur, Maute, Maute Terror Group, terrorist
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