The threat of violent extremism remains in the predominantly Catholic Philippines even after the end of a five-month siege by terrorists in a southern city, said Catholic and Muslim officials.
Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the Philippines bishops’ Public Affairs Committee said that according to some analysts and the president, “terrorist cells are already everywhere. It’s not only concentrated in Marawi, but there is a presence also in other parts of Mindanao.”
The historically peaceful Marawi on Mindanao Island in the South was the site of a sustained siege by so-called Islamic State loyalists, who wanted to claim it as an ISIS caliphate. More than 1,100 people – mostly ISIS fighters – died in the battle where the fighters, fortified with munitions and provisions, withstood a military offensive backed by intelligence and special training from the United States, Australia and other countries.
The military killed two local leaders who headed the fight, prompting the president to declare the siege over.
Days later, Mindanao’s Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato told reporters “the threat of terrorism is still there” and that extremist ideology and plans for a caliphate continue.