Troops seized P79 million worth of cash and checks from a house previously occupied by terrorists in Marawi City, where the Armed Forces and the police are flushing out members of the Islamic State (IS)-linked Maute group.
The cash and checks were recovered by the Philippine Marines during clearing operations in the Islamic city, which the Maute attacked on May 22.
Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera, spokesman of the army’s 1st Infantry Division, said the money was taken in Mapandi village during house-to-house encounters between the terrorist group and government forces.
Of the total, P27 million worth of checks were recovered. The rest, P52 million, were bundles of cash, mostly in denominations of P1,000, each covered by plastic.
“We will not speculate here. We will wait for the facts after the investigation,” Herrera told reporters in a news conference.
Authorities did not the name the owner of the money and checks, but one of the checks, with an amount of P6.8 million, was issued by the local government unit of Tamparan in Lanao del Sur province from a Philippine Veterans Bank account.
Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, head of the Western Mindanao Command, said the money and checks would be turned over to authorities for safekeeping, “until appropriate investigation is conducted and proper identification of owner is established.”
The Philippine National Police (PNP) will conduct an investigation, and the military will also seek the help of the National Bureau of Investigation.
“It can be used as evidence and can be handled by the evidence custodian who is also handling the case and later on can be used in a criminal case against the suspects involved with the money,” PNP spokesman Dionardo Carlos said in a news briefing at Camp Crame in Quezon City.
Gen. Eduardo Año, Armed Forces chief of staff, said the owner of the house would also be investigated.
“In fact, a heavy machine gun was also placed [near the house]. So we are just curious how [come]a huge amount of cash [and checks]were found inside the house. What we did for now is to ensure the safety of the [area],” Año said in a radio interview.
Brig. Gen. Joselito Bautista, commander of Task Force Marawi, said the recovered money showed that contrary to online speculations, no military men were involved in looting in Marawi City.
“In contrast, the Maute/ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group) vandalized, looted and burned school buildings, hospital rooms, houses and destroyed many properties in Marawi,” he added.
‘We will finish what you started’ Later on Tuesday, President Rodrigo Duterte slammed the Maute terror group for recruiting foreign fighters who have joined the battle against security forces in Marawi.
Speaking before the 602nd Infantry Brigade at Camp Lucero in North Cotabato, Duterte reiterated he would not negotiate with the Maute group and suspected members of the IS, who have been occupying parts of the city.
“Why do you allow other people to come to our country and destroy us for their ideology? May sarili namang atin. Foreign `yan sa inyo. Hindi inyo `yan, galing `yang Middle East [We have our own. That’s foreign. That’s not yours, that’s from the Middle East],” the President said.
“The avowed objective of [IS] is to kill and destroy, period. That’s why I will destroy also and kill, period. We will finish what you started, sons of whores. No peace talks. If it would take me 10 years to do it, I will do it, if I am still around. If I will do it until the end of my term, I will do it,” he added.
Duterte’s statement followed the revelation of the Indonesian defense minister in a Singapore defense forum on Sunday that there were 1,200 IS operatives in the Philippines.
Last week, the government announced that among those killed in the Marawi City clashes were eight foreign fighters from Malaysia, Indonesia, Yemen, and Chechnya.
The President reiterated his order to the troops to intensify their offensive against the Islamist militants.
“Gentlemen, we are fighting a rebellion. Rebellion is a war, it is not anything that you see everyday… If we allow them to overcome [us], then this country will end up something like minus the island of Mindanao,” he said.
Duterte said he was in the process of putting up a trust fund for children of troops and reassured soldiers he would assume responsibility for their actions and even misdeeds.