The death of terrorist leaders Omar Maute and Isnilon Hapilon as confirmed by the Philippine Army hierarchy is a welcome development, in fact commendable. With their death, the army believes the terrorists’ strength in Marawi has weakened enough to declare that Marawi is now free from the hands of the terrorists. In fact, President Duterte who went to Marawi, Tuesday has openly declared, the city is now liberated. The declaration came even as the army confirmed they are still looking after one personality, Dr. Mamud, a Malaysian, is still hiding in one of the city’s buildings. But he is not that powerful, the military confirmed.
That’s good news. The bad news however is the anticipation expressed by the military on the possible retaliatory moves from foreign terrorists who are backing their ally the Maute Group and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). Hapilon was an ASG leader while Omar led the ISIS-inspired Maute. Families who started to go back to their homes in Marawi after five months of refuge at evacuation centers and other areas of Mindanao as far as Manila however expressed fear that there are still some terrorists hiding in the city. Since they felt the need to go back to their homes, if these are still intact, they have to live with the fear no matter what as long as they could start all over again. Besides they are feeling secure with the continuing vigilance and presence of the military in the area.
With regard to the probability of reprisal, it’s not only Marawi, any area in Mindanao or other parts of the country could be target for retaliatory attacks. Though this is clear pessimism; precaution is still the best weapon against the enemies and threat. Government should never let their guard down against these dangerous enemies of the state. The heightened alert imposed by the army and police in Mindanao after the terrorist leaders’ death must stay with no time frame considering terrorists like thieves do their thing when everyone is still. Sadly, this would also mean people’s fear will always remain.