Maute group’s two leaders’ deaths on Monday could still call for more violence, according to Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr. on Tuesday.
In an interview with CNN Philippines, the AFP spokesman said that the deaths of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and Omarkhayam Maute, while seen as a positive sign of the Marawi crisis ending, there is still a negative side to it.
“But the negative side is they lost two prominent leaders that have been there for a long, long time and who have provided a lot of direction,” Padilla said in the same interview.
He added, “Second, on the negative side, it can spur them to be more violent, be more extremist in their ways.”
Kumar Ramakrishna, an expert on terrorism from Rajaratnam School of International Studies in an Agence France-Presse report, called the deaths of the two leaders a ‘symbolic blow’ to ISIS-linked groups in Mindanao, but said that the threat still remains.
“Just because the Marawi siege is coming to an end does not mean the thread is over. IS-linked militants there will regroup… and lay low for a while, while rebuilding their strength,” he said.
However, AFP Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año stressed in a press briefing in Marawi, also on Tuesday, assured that just because the battle is near its end, it does not mean that there will be a ‘letup’ in their operations.
“I’m certain that the neutralization of Hapilon and Omar is the last straw that has broken the camel’s back. The Marawi crisis will be over sooner than later. The resistance or what is left of it, the terrorists will crumble, it is a dead end, there is nowhere else to go for them,” he said.
“Needless to say, the remaining terrorists should as well free their hostages and if their dignity is intact by letting the noncombatants go,” Año added.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella supported this by urging the remaining fighters to ‘restore peace and rebuild our land.’
“With terrorist leaders gone, we call on all fighters to cease further resistance and violence and return to the road of peace,” Abella said during the Mindanao Hour press briefing on Tuesday.
The Marawi siege since May 23 pressed President Rodrigo Duterte to declare a martial law in the whole of Mindanao.