Security forces are currently hunting down a certain Abu Dar, said to be one of the leaders of the Maute group behind the five-month siege in Marawi City last year.
Dar has been identified by the military as the new regional Islamic State (IS) leader. He is known to be a Maranao sub-leader of the Maute.
He succeeded Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who was killed during an encounter with government forces October last year.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. revealed that security forces are closely monitoring the activities of known terrorists and validating reports that 23 militant groups have joined forces as IS-Philippines.
Esperon also said that the reports prompted the deployment of 50 percent of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) troops in Mindanao.
“We requested for the extension of the Martial Law for the rest of the year, so I think there’s no point in ending Martial Law that we requested,” he said.
The National Security Adviser assured the public anew that the Martial Law imposed by the President in Mindanao “is not the kind of Martial Law we know,” referring to the military rule during the regime of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.
“Remember that local governments and executives are functioning and in their positions. The military has not taken over the civilian functions,” Esperon said.
According to AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bienvenido Datuin, the military and other government agencies are taking all reports of terrorist threats seriously.
Meanwhile, a senior military official gave assurance that Metro Manila remains free of any verified threat from local and foreign militants.
“On our end, we are continuously coordinating and planning to keep in touch with Muslim communities in Metro Manila, especially with their religious and business leaders,” the security official said.
This coordination is aimed at countering and preventing extremism and violence within the ranks of Muslim communities, he added.