The military said the Maute group had planned to occupy Iligan City after taking over Marawi and “kill as many non-Muslims as they can to show to the world that there already is an existing ISIS caliphate in the Philippines.”
The revelation by Armed Forces chief of staff Lieutenant General Eduardo Año not only prompted tighter security in Iligan, where tens of thousands of Marawi residents fled after fighting broke out three weeks ago between the extremists and government forces, but also led Mayor Celso Regencia to call on gun owners to defend their city.
“Aking panawagan sa mga taong may lisensyadong mga armas, linisin niyo na ang inyong mga armas at kunin ang mga bala (My call to licensed gun owners, clean your weapons and get your ammunition),” Regencia said during ceremonies marking Independence Day Monday.
“Pagdating ng curfew at may masasamang tao na gustong pumasok sa inyong bahay (When the curfew starts and bad people want to enter your homes), I order you to shoot the enemy,” he added.
Iligan has imposed a curfew that starts at 9 p.m.
Año said the supposed plan to occupy and sow mayhem in Iligan, which is around 38 kilometers from Marawi, was revealed by a captured gunman who said the order was given by Abdullah Maute, one of the brothers who founded the extremist group that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
The plan, he said, was meant “to show to the world that there is an existing ISIS in the Philippines, that they have a base in Asia, and they chose Mindanao, Lanao Sur.”
Members of the Iligan Practical Shooters Club said they were willing to heed Regencia’s call.
Ian Uy said gun club members were not likely to think twice if their lives and that of their families were in danger.
But Regencia’s proposal to arm village watchmen was not as welcome.
Gun club president Samuel Tatay said doing so might only lead to abuses.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, for his part, questioned the wisdom of arming civilians, saying it could only lead to more trouble.
He did say that they could “organize them properly” then train and arm them under the control of the military once the Marawi crisis is over.