Ambush in Marawi City? Residents have doubts
MARAWI CITY, Philippines – A day after the Marawi City ambush that wounded 9 soldiers, most of them security officers of President Rodrigo Duterte, residents and motorists gathered at the site to share their stories and version of what happened – or did not happen.
Some of the residents do not believe military and government reports that an improvised explosive device (IED) was detonated along the main highway of Barangay Emie Punud, leading to a firefight between soldiers and alleged rebels on Tuesday, November 29.
Abitaleb Campong, 38, said he was inside his house nearby when he heard Tuesday morning a loud bang which was followed by a spray of bullets. "Parang 79 [caliber] pumutok. Mga baril pumutok. Ang mga sundalo nagpaputok," Campong said. (It sounded like a caliber 79. And then gunshots were heared. The soldiers fired the shots.)
"First time 'yan.... Parang gawa-gawa ng mga sundalo. Sila ang pumutok e (That is the first time [an ambush happened here]. I think the soldiers made it up. They were the ones who fired)," Campong added. The reported IED blast happened in a residential area.
The military said this sentiment was "painful" to hear, a form of "propaganda" amid intensified government operations against the Maute terrorist group in the area.
President Rodrigo Duterte himself on Wednesday visited the soldiers who were confined in a hospital in Cagayan de Oro City.
Emil Disamburun, 45, shared Campong's doubts, although he lives farther down the city. "Kung may ambush, 'yung sa taas may [sundalo] na. Wala. Walang taong nakita dito," he said. (If there was an ambush, there would have been soldiers up there. We didn't see people there.)
The blast site is located at the bottom of a hilly side of the highway.
Marawi City has its share of ambush incidents, but they don't happen in barangay Emie Punud, according to Disamburun. "Panahon pa ni Marcos ang last na ambush dito," he said. (The last ambush incident in this area happened during the time of Marcos.)
The sentiments echoed what was posted on Facebook Tuesday night by Drieza Abato Lininding that has since been shared more than 3,000 times as of this story's posting.
Lininding, a known Duterte supporter who describes himself as an "activist," said his team visited the houses near the ambush site to verify the incident.
Based on his interviews, residents believe that one of the soldiers in the convoy may have accidentally fired his M203 service firearm, causing confusion that might have prompted other soldiers to open fire.
In an interview with Rappler, Lininding said the military here would stage bombings and then blame them on Muslim rebels. "Our fear is that this is part of a larger scenario to declare martial law in Lanao area," he said.
Military officers, however, dismissed this talk as part of efforts to discredit soldiers who are in the middle of an all-out offensive against local terrorists and kidnappers.
Military reports showed that the incident happened before 11 am on Tuesday.
A convoy of the Presidential Security Group and Radio TV Malacañang (RTVM), along with local troop escorts, were on their way to Marawi when an IED exploded along their path, the military said. The government troops were then fired upon by "armed suspects," the military said.
The 7 members of the PSG who were wounded were identified by the police as the following: Captain Zamora, Staff Sergeant Damaso, Corporal Inova, Corporal De Leon, Seargeant Garcia, Private First Class Gonzalez and Private First Class Panisa. Two other Army soldiers were also hurt.
A staff of the government RTVM channel, who was part of the convoy, attested to the ambush. He said they were forced to go the other way when they heard the blast. The military said the soldiers were immediately brought to the 103rd brigade headquarters then airlifted to a Cagayan de Oro hospital to be treated.
Colonel Rosseler Murillo, brigade commander, lamented how the residents were doubting the incident. "Alam natin na totoo ang ginagawa natin kasi ang hirap isakripisyo ang buhay ng sundalo para sa ganoong scenario lang," Murillo said. (We know that it is true. It is difficult to sacrifice the lives of soldiers for a scenario like that.)
One of the soldiers was seriously injured.
"They are very active sa mga ganoon kasi (in propaganda because) they are losing this battle," said Murillo, citing what he said is the close relationship among families in the area.
"Wala namang ibang fact e (There is no other fact). It was an ambush deliberately planned kung sino ang dadaan doon na (for whoever was passing there that was a) marked vehicle of the military," said Murillo.
The military launched an offensive against the Maute group that pledged allegiance to the foreign terrorist group Islamic State (ISIS) that has sought to establish a caliphate in the Middle East.
In Butig town, a few hours' drive away from Marawi City, the Maute group occupied the abandoned town hall and raised the black flag of the ISIS.
On Wednesday, the same day that Duterte visited the army camp in Lanao del Sur, the military said it had driven the group out of the town hall. – Rappler.com