Duterte says Nobleza, Abu Sayyaf sympathizer, got money from ISIS

Bea Cupin

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Duterte says Nobleza, Abu Sayyaf sympathizer, got money from ISIS
The President says a police superintendent who was arrested for trying to rescue Abu Sayyaf members was also getting money from an alleged ISIS-linked woman

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday, May 31, claimed a high-ranking police officer who was arrested for an alleged attempt to rescue a terrorist was a “recipient” of money from the dreaded Islamic State or ISIS.

Duterte said Superintendent Maria Cristina Nobleza, who up until recently was the deputy crime lab chief of the Davao Region, was “one of the recipients” of apparent funding from ISIS intended for local terror groups.

“She was not only in cahoots, but she was an active player in this terrorism business,” said Duterte, referring to Nobleza. The President was speaking off-the-cuff during the Philippine Navy’s 119th anniversary.

Nobleza, who was a part of the Philippine Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) under the last administration, was arrested in Bohol late April 2017 for attempting to avoid a military checkpoint. Police later said she was part of an alleged plot to rescue Abu Sayyaf fighters who were trapped in the island province.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) would later reveal that Nobleza was romantically involved with Renierlo Dongon, brother-in-law of several terror leaders in Mindanao. Police said Nobleza had grown close to Nobleza because she interrogated him after his arrest. (READ: Marwan’s ties that bind: Ren-Ren Dongon)

Drugs and terrorism

Duterte revealed the details of Nobleza’s apparent role as ISIS-funds carrier to emphasize how local terror groups were sourcing their funds from the illegal drug trade.

Hinayaan kasi natin ang droga (We let drugs proliferate). There was a time, until now that the terrorism activities in the Philippines is funded and fueled by drug money,” said Duterte.

Duterte added: “Alam namin na wala masyadong tulong ang ISIS sa Middle East. Nakukuha namin ang pinapadala nila by just examining papers.”

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, in a press conference after the event, said Nobleza had been getting money from a Syrian national who was apprehended recently.

In early April 2017, the National Bureau of Investigation apprehended alleged ISIS members Rahaf Zina and Husayn Al-Dhafiri.

Zina, said Lorenzana, “is linked to one of the high-ranking ISIS in Syria.”

“The lady was remitting money to Nobleza. They had been contacting each other through cellphone and through remittances of money from the Syrian woman to Nobleza,” he said.

Nobleza and Dongon are currently detained in Camp Crame while Zina and Al-Dhafiri have been deported.

Terror groups who have pledged allegiance to ISIS recently prompted Duterte to place the entire Mindanao island under martial law. He also suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

Military and police are still trying to rid Marawi City of terrorists, following an attempted surgical strike against Isnilon Hapilon, an Abu Sayyaf member who is believed to have direct links to ISIS.

Lorenzana said the military has yet to spot Hapilon again but he is believed to still be in Marawi. – Rappler.com

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.