By GERRY LEE GORIT
CAGAYAN de Oro City--The three persons who were apprehended by authorities in an apartment in Barangay Macasandig here on Wednesday and suspected to be working for a terrorist group did not register themselves at the local government unit where they were staying prior to their arrest, a village official disclosed.
Mario Bolanio, Macasandig village councilor, said the suspects did not bother to have their names be recorded at the barangay hall when they arrived recently.
The date of their arrival in Macasandig was not clearly known, said Bolanio, who was one of the barangay officials invited as witness when law enforcement and military operatives raided the apartment unit rented by a certain Irene Romato Idris.
Idris is allegedly related to Ominta “Farhana” Romato Maute, the matriarch of the leaders of the Maute terrorist group, the brothers Omarkhayam and Abdullah.
Chief Inspector Mardy Hortillosa, the city police spokesperson, said Idris is a close relative of Farhana and may have assumed the matriarch’s position as the Maute Group’s financier when she was arrested in Lanao del Sur last month. Farhana’s husband, Cayamora Maute, was also arrested in Davao City recently.
Other members of the Maute Group, one of them Mohammad Noaim Maute, also known as Abu Jadid and Alfaiz Mamintal, were also caught by law enforcers in Macasandig last June 15. Three others were nabbed in a port in Iloilo City last month.
Members of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups have been fighting the military in Marawi City since May 23.
During the raid, authorities, led by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) did not arrest Idris, who was not around at the time, but instead nabbed Gazim Mantawazi Abdullah, Monaliza Solaiman Romato, and Tahera Romato Taher, who were inside one of the apartment units in Aluba, Macasandig, at the time.
The raiding team had with them a search warrant issued by Judge Dennis Alcantar, who ordered a sweep of the apartment unit on suspicion that Idris has in her possession an M16 rifle, a .45 caliber pistol, and undetermined number of ammunition.
What the police and military found in lieu of the firearms were items believed to be used in making improved explosive device (IED) including a blasting cap, a 9-volt battery, C4 explosive, detonating cords, and ammonium nitrate.
In an interview with the media, Tahera denied they are members of the Maute Group and that the items were just “planted.”
For his part, Bolanio said he was informed of the raid by the police shortly after the search warrant was served early Wednesday morning.
Bolanio said the raiding team only entered the apartment unit rented
by Idris when he, Kagawad Eric Waban and a team from a TV network arrived.
He said he saw the black bag containing the items in the corner of the room where the suspects used to sleep.
During the search, Bolanio said he managed to take photos and videos of the suspects and the items.
“When the bag was taken, (Taher) denied it is theirs,” he told reporters, adding that he also heard her say the items were “planted.”
He said Taher even asked the law enforcers not to handcuff them as they were escorted out of the gated apartment.
Bolanio said they did not expect that a group of alleged members of the Maute Group has taken up residence in Macasanding since the apartment they were renting is just beside the road.
Even the neighbors are not aware of the suspects’ presence.
Carlita, a resident living nearby, said she even saw on several occasions Monaliza and Tahera buying fruits and vegetables at a neighborhood store selling food items.
Bolanio said he did not accompany the suspects to the CIDG regional office inside the Army’s 4th Infantry Division headquarters at Camp Evangelista in Barangay Patag.
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