By Charmaine Deogracias
MANILA, Philippines — Before May 23, 2017, the band of bandits operating in the Lanao area called Maute Group was nothing but an armed network of clans with familial ties to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. But the Maute Group is now an international terrorist organization, thanks to President Rodrigo Duterte and his declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
What is referred to in military and police reports as a local group has now been renamed Maute ISIS. Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Eduardo Año on Friday said the AFP is considering classifying the group as an international terrorist organization.
So far, only the Abu Sayyaf and the New People's Army are the Philippine groups listed in the US Department of State roster of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
Research conducted by VERA Files shows that before Mindanao was placed under martial law, police and military intelligence reports have already noted the diminishing strength of the Maute group and as well as its so-called vision to establish an Islamic State wilayah or province in Mindanao.
Both the AFP and the Philippine National Police have maintained that the group is a network of armed clans based in Lanao del Sur. They had relatives in the MILF and connections with local politicians, and maintained training and financial relations with the Southeast Asian terror network Jemaah Islamiya.
But Maute had no established direct ties with the Islamic state of Iraq and Syria. Only when President Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao did Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana label the group Maute ISIS.
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