DAVAO CITY - No less than Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has confirmed that the jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is recruiting young Davaoenos.
Duterte said most of those recruited by the group left the country in the past month.
"I am concerned. I am not condemning anybody here. I feel sad for those who go there. They probably feel it's alright..." he said in his weekly program "Gikan sa Masa Para sa Masa."
Former President Fidel V. Ramos earlier told ANC that at least 100 Filipinos are reportedly undergoing training with jihadists currently creating havoc in Iraq and Syria.
He said the Abu Sayyaf has been encouraged by the success of the Islamic State (IS), formerly known known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The Philippine military has denied Ramos' claim, saying that military intelligence has yet to monitor any signs of recruitment activity by the jihadist group.
Duterte, however, said the military is denying the report because "they aren't sure if these Filipinos are already fighting overseas."
"The only reports we've received said that there will be some sent there," the mayor said.
He added: "Dako man ko respeto basta prinsipyo na. (I have a lot of respect as long as it's for principle.) I just hope dili ma generate into something bad for us here. They are driven by religious principles. Islam is a very good religion. I just hope that they are there to fight for religious purposes and not for hatred. I just hope that they are well there. Whatever it is, they are still Filipinos."
Meanwhile, the mayor said he is alarmed by reports that another group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, has also pledged allegiance to ISIS.
"I'm a little concerned. I'm wondering what would be the dimensions. It's a campaign of terror. But I just hope they will leave it that way there. They can come here and talk to me and have coffee," he said.