PH military downplays Abu Sayyaf allegiance to ISIS

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine military's spy chief downplayed the video of senior Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon swearing an oath of allegiance to the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq or ISIS. 

Major General Eduardo Año, chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), told Rappler it is a case of the Abu Sayyaf giving "moral support" to the jihadist group and not the other way around.

"It does not bother us....It does not mean anything because hindi naman magpapadala ng fighters ang ISIS dito sa atinMay sarili silang problema doon (ISIS will not send fighters here because they have their own problems there)," Año said in a phone interview on Wednesday, August 6. 

It may be a ploy to seek financial support, he said. "Matagal na kasing walang financial support ang ASG (The ASG has not been receiving financial support for a long time). That is why they resorted to kidnapping."

Año also said the military does not feel threatened by the video. "It doesn't matter, actually, as long as there are no physical forces, additional manpower, financial support or bomb components that will be sent to the Philippines," he said.

The video uploaded in July shows Hapilon and several masked men swearing their oath of allegiance to the IS. The US Rewards for Justice Program has offered a reward of up to $5 million for the arrest or conviction of several Abu Sayyaf leaders, including Hapilon.

It is the 3rd video to show Muslim Filipino militants pledging allegiance to the IS. Australian-born ISIS supporter Musa Cerantinio was also arrested in Cebu in July and was shortly deported.

Año denied reports that Filipino fighters have joined the ISIS. 

The Abu Sayyaf previously joined the Black Flag Movement to symbolize its support for Al Qaeda and the Indonesia-based Jema'ah Islamiyah, but Año said the local terrorist group havs not received support for a long time, forcing them to focus on kidnapping. (Read: Al-Qaeda's black flag seized in ASG camp)

The military has stepped up operations against the Abu Sayyaf – said to be around 400. Año said there is an ongoing manhunt for Hapilon who was supposedly last spotted in Basilan in July. – Rappler.com