General in Marawi crisis relieved of post

Carmela Fonbuena

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General in Marawi crisis relieved of post


Brigadier General Nixon Fortes is replaced by his deputy commander, Colonel Generoso Ponio

MARAWI CITY, Philippines – The commander of the Army 103rd Brigade responsible for security operations in Marawi City and nearby areas has been relieved of his post, the military said on Friday, June 2. 

Brigadier General Nixon Fortes, who commanded the post for about 5 months or since January this year, was given a new post in the middle of security operations against local terrorist groups that attacked the city. (READ: How a military raid triggered Marawi attacks)

The transfer was effective May 29, according to Army spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Ray Tiongson. 

Fortes was replaced by his deputy commander, Colonel Generoso Ponio.

Major General Rolando Bautista – commander of the 1st Division to which the 103rd Brigade belongs –  is the commander of Task Force Marawi. He has been on top of operations since Day 1 of the crisis.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier admitted failure to appreciate intelligence reports on developments in Marawi City.

In an interview with Rappler, Bautista said the military had information as early as “2 to 3 weeks before May 23” that local terrorist groups were planning to seize the city. 

The 103rd Brigade is a critical post. Fortes’ predecessor, now Brigadier General Rosseler Murillo, led at least 3 major offensives against the Maute Group in nearby Butig town where the local terrorist group raised the ISIS black flag. 

Isnilon Hapilon‘s presence in Central Mindanao – first in Butig – was detected in January. The military said it intensified the manhunt for Hapilon, an Abu Sayyaf senior leader, since then. 

Hapilon has been reported to be the direct contact of ISIS in the Philippines. He is said to have left his hometown in Basilan to join the Maute Group in Central Mindanao because ISIS wanted him to scout for a better area to establish a caliphate in Mindanao.

Hapilon was the target of the military raid that triggered coordinated attacks in the city. Bautista said the raid prompted the local terrorist groups to prematurely activate a plan to seize the city. –

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