Getting a helping hand from local Muslims

THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Central Command (Centcom) is monitoring persons of interest in Central Visayas in light of the ongoing clash between the Maute Group and government troops in Marawi City.

Colonel Medel Aguilar, assistant chief of the unified staff for civil military operations for Centcom, said in an 888 News Forum that they are looking into these personalities’ movements.

“We’ve been observing them, but they haven’t done anything suspicious. There is no imminent threat,” Aguilar said in Tagalog.

He assured the public that there is no cause for alarm and that they and the local Muslim community are doing their best to prevent the violence in Lanao del Sur from spilling over to Region 7.

He did not say how many persons they are monitoring.

Strengthening security

“We continue to validate these persons of interest but so far they have no links to Marawi and that is the good news that we have here,” Aguilar said in Tagalog.

“The whole Visayas is safe because we have not monitored the presence of armed groups coming from Mindanao but still we encourage people to be vigilant,” he said.

For now, Centcom is strengthening its security in the southern borders of the region to stop terrorist groups from setting foot in the Visayas.

“Our Philippine Navy and our maritime police have been there for a long time to guard our coastal borders,” he said.

Aguilar also reiterated that the public should stop spreading false information in social media.

“You are not helping us. Send a firsthand report to us and the police so that we can do the right act,” he said.

Mindanao is under martial law amid the ongoing clashes between the Maute group and government troops, which started last May 23.

A religion of peace

In a related development, Ustadz Rasul Najib, president of the Voice of Islam Foundation in Cebu and chairman of the Council of Elders in the Visayas, said they are against the violence in Marawi City.

He said that there is no verse in the Koran that tells believers to engage in a blood bath to get to heaven.

Ustadz said that there are two billion Muslims in the world, 26 million Muslims in the Philippines, while there are only 50,000 Muslim extremists.

“It is very clear that these extremists do not represent us. In fact, majority of the Muslims condemn what they (Muslim extremists) are doing,” Ustadz said during the 888 News Forum at Marco Polo Plaza.

Most of the world’s Muslims began observing the holy month of Ramadan last Friday.

But Ustadz said residents of Marawi City don’t have the luxury because they are busy trying to survive or to evacuate the city.

He said the lack of food has been a blessing to the clash victims because they’re supposed to fast during this sacred month.
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