ISIS supporting local terrorist groups? Not true, says Malacañang

MANILA, Philippines – Despite the recent attacks in Mindanao of local terrorists claiming links with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS, IS, ISIL, or Da'esch), Malacañang continued to downplay claims of the jihadist group's presence in the Philippines.

In an interview on Saturday, March 5, over radio dzRB, Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III, head of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office, said Malacañang stands by the statement of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) denying the presence of ISIS in the country.

"According to [AFP spokesman] Brigadier General Restituto Padilla, there are no verified reports that local terrorist groups are getting support from ISIS," Quezon said.

He added: "This has not been established, and he said there’s no direct relation between the group here and the bigger terror group in the Middle East...It is the job of the Armed Forces to determine these things. The Armed Forces has proven its capacity in the past and we believe that theirs is an accurate assessment." 

The military previously dismissed claims that ISIS may soon declare a wilayat or province in the southern Philippines. A video released in February showed the terror group officially recognizing a number of jihadist groups in the Philippines, while the Moro Islamic Liberation Front earlier said that ISIS was recruiting members in at least 3 provinces in Central Mindanao. 

Since February, gun battles have been raging in Lanao del Sur, with the military mounting offensives against an ISIS-inspired militant group.

On March 1, government troops regained control of Butig town in Lanao del Sur following a 10-day offensive that left 24 rebels and 3 soldiers dead and thousands of families displaced.

Philippine authorities are also investigating the March 1 assassination attempt on a prominent Saudi cleric who was on the hit list of ISIS. Rappler.com