News reports about the killing of criminals, no matter how evil they are, always trigger a somber mood in ordinary people, but the reports about the recent slaying in Marawi City of two top terrorists – Isnilon Hapilon and Omarkhayam Maute – seem to have caused a sigh of relief, instead of sadness.
This unusual feeling, made more palpable by the published photos of the two dead men, is understandable because Isnilon and Maute were said to be behind many cases of kidnappings and beheadings in Mindanao.
Isnilon, the military said, is the head of the much dreaded Abu Sayyaf which has been spreading terror in Southern Philippines for some two decades now. He had been promoted head of the Islamic State group in Southeast Asia, officials said.
Maute was one of two brothers who headed the IS-inspired Maute Group that had been fighting government troops for four months in Marawi. Maute’s brother, Abdullah Maute, was reported by the military to have been killed in August, though no body was found.
The protracted battle has claimed more than 1,000 lives and has raised fears that IS is seeking to set up a regional base in Mindanao.
President Duterte and security analysts said Isnilon had been a key figure in the group’s drive to establish a Southeast Asian caliphate even as the ISIS suffers defeats in Iraq and Syria. “(Our troops) were able to get Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute. They were both killed,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters.
DNA tests of the two bodies will be conducted to ascertain that they are indeed those of Isnilon and Maute. Results of the test are needed as proof for a claim of the reward offered by the US and Philippine governments.
Isnilon is in the US list of top terrorists with a $10-million price for his head. The Philippine government’s reward for his capture, dead or alive, is P10 million. Maute carried a P5-million reward for his capture, dead or alive.
Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar said that the death of the two terrorist leaders proves the government’s resolve to maintain peace and order in the country.
“This clear victory against terrorism proves the Duterte administration’s resoluteness to deliver on its promise of peace and prosperity to the people of Mindanao,” Andanar also said.
From our standpoint, we see this military victory as a bright spot in the record of the increasingly unstable Duterte administration which has been the subject of unrelenting criticisms by many quarters due to its brutal war on drugs.
We hope and pray that this victory in the fight against terrorism will lead to the dismantling of the Abu Sayyaf and Maute Group and engender a lasting peace in Mindanao.