Lanao del Sur

Lanao del Sur town bounces back 7 years after its encounter with terror

Ferdinandh Cabrera

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Lanao del Sur town bounces back 7 years after its encounter with terror

NEW. The new town hall of Butig in Lanao del Sur province.

courtesy of Kutangbato News

Years after it saw destruction in the hands of the Maute Group, the town government is working to turn Butig into an agro-tourism hub, developing its stunning, thickly forested mountain ranges

COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Teacher Raihana Serad expressed deep sadness when she learned that one of her former 12th-grade students had turned to radicalism and joined a local group that swore allegiance to the terrorist organization Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Serad said her student was among those who participated in the destruction of their hometown, Butig, in Lanao del Sur province.

The first casualty was their school in Bayabao Poblacion when the heavily armed radical group occupied the old town hall and raised the black ISIS flag in April 2016.

They burned and destroyed key government landmarks, especially the old town hall, schools, and Madaris.

The incident displaced the seat of the local government, leading the town mayor, Dimnatang Pansar, to set up a temporary office elsewhere due to the violence.

This incident occurred before the 2017 Marawi siege, resulting from the Maute Group‘s attempt to establish a caliphate in the predominantly Muslim city.

“We have experienced several atrocities, from all-out wars and rido (clan wars), but the ISIS (Maute Group) siege on our town was the worst. We are just relatives divided by religious ideologies,” Serad told Rappler.

She said many young men from their town who joined the ISIS-inspired group had just graduated from the 12th grade at that time.

“Unfortunately, they were misguided by the wrong teachings,” she lamented.

Significant change

Seven years later, Butig town has undergone significant changes. There is no longer a credible threat from the extremist group, and a new P25-million town hall was built there by the regional government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Butig is significant and historic because it hosts Camp Bushra, the second-largest camp of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a former rebel group that reached a peace settlement with the government, leading to the establishment of the BARMM.

“Our focus on Butig demonstrates our commitment to remaining loyal to our roots while charting a new and prosperous future for our region,” said BARMM Interior Minister Naguib Sinarimbo.

It was the BARMM’s Ministry of the Interior and Local Government (MILG) headed by Sinarimbo that initiated the project.

Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal Adiong and Maguindanao del Norte Governor Abdulraof Macacua, who represented Bangsamoro Chief Minister Ahod Balawag “Al Haj Murad” Ebrahim, graced the turnover of the new town hall to Butig officials on Sunday, November 19.

Sinarimbo said the MILG was also helping 19 former Maute Group members through a recovery and reintegration program. 

The BARMM’s Tulong ng Gobyernong Nagmamalasakit (TUGON) aims to provide the former radical group members with skills training, livelihood, and housing.

Mayor Pansar said the town government was working to turn Butig into an agro-tourism hub, developing the stunning, thickly forested Mount Makaturing and Mount Pagayungan.

Pansar called the mountain ranges the “sleeping beauty of Lanao del Sur,” characterized by clean rivers, with 3,000 hectares set aside for upland rice production.

Adiong said the regional government, through its different ministries, has so far spent some P10 billion to help develop Lanao del Sur’s infrastructure.

“We felt and witnessed these in recent years. Our support for the BOL (Bangsamoro Organic Law) was not wasted,” Adiong said.

For teacher Serad, the present Butig is far different from seven years ago.

“It feels good and secure right now. There is a peaceful environment, and rapid development is being felt,” she said.

Her advice to parents is for them to closely examine what doctrines are being taught to their children to prevent brainwashing and radicalism to avoid a repeat of the 2016 siege in Butig town. –

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