Although the battle against the IS-linked Maute group terrorists in Marawi City was over for several months now, the terrorist group is still active in systematic recruitment of vulnerable youth and adult people in Mindanao and Sabah, according to The Manila Times Online exclusive report.
A military intelligence source told the Times that children from indigent families in Mindanao were “sold” by their parents to at least one of the IS-linked imams from Marawi.
A source from Sabah state of Malaysia, an advocate for stateless persons of Filipino descent, claimed that there were more than 400,000 stateless children of Filipino descent who have either undocumented or stateless parents working in low-paying informal sector in Sabah.
This means that about 99 percent of these stateless children of Filipino descent are unable to attend public schools in Sabah, a Malaysian state to which the Philippines has historic claims.
The fact that these stateless children lack a nationality altogether, compounded by their lack of education and employment opportunities, makes their conditions particularly harsh and, hence, easily vulnerable to recruitment by the likes of Maute terrorists and other extreme groups.
Local Meranao and Muslim sources told the Times that the Maute terrorists never intended to attack Marawi City because it was already the “Islamic City” – the country’s centre of Muslim worship, governance, culture and commerce.
One of the terrorist group leaders said the real plan was to establish an IS base in Marawi and the ultimate goal was to first attack and take over Iligan City, Cagayan de Oro City ahd Davao City, the hometown of President Rodrigo Duterte.
But the original operational plan failed after the Armed Forces of the Philippines successfully cordoned Isnilon Hapilon and the Maute brothers within Marawi City before the end of May.
Marawi residents knew about the presence of IS elements in their city since 2015 and nearly everyone kept silent, according to intelligence sources.