MARAWI CITY - A 17-year-old "child warrior" of the Maute group painted a grisly picture of the initiation Maute fighters had to go through to be part of the Islamic State-linked terrorist group.
"Faisal," not his real name, was captured in a town near this war-torn city. He admitted he has been training with the terror group since he was 10 years old.
"Sabi nila sino magsama mag-jihad kasi lahat ng mga babae sa atin pinatay, lahat ng mga babae nating Muslim pinatay ng mga sundalo. Kaya sumama ako sa kanila," Faisal said.
(They asked us who wanted to join the jihad because soldiers had killed Muslim women. That's why I joined them.)
Faisal said the Maute group gave them money while they were training and promised them even more when they graduated.
"P15,000 kada buwan. Kapag mag-graduate ka sabi ng trainor namin madadagdagan ng P5,000... Magiging P20,000," he said.
(P15,000 per month. If we graduate, the trainor said we'll be getting an additional P5,000. We'll get a total of P20,000 per month.)
But before they could graduate, they had to do one final task, which was to behead a target of the terror group.
"Kunwari, si Fahad, isumbong mo kay Isnilon Hapilon sabihin ni Isnilon Hapilon na hanapin mo si Fahad ikaw mag-kuwan ng ulo, tapos dalhin mo sa 'kin 'yung ulo ni Fahad," he said.
(For example, I'll go to Isnilon Hapilon to complain about Fahad. Isnilon Hapilon will ask me to go find Fahad and behead him. I will bring the head to Hapilon.)
Faisal said if they failed to behead the target, they would be the ones beheaded.
During the first week of Marawi siege, Faisal was part of the logistics unit that supplied ammunition to the group. He was with Usman Maute, a cousin of Abdullah Maute.
He said their group had already stored thousands of bullets in various houses in Marawi, months before the conflict erupted on May 23.
Faisal said, less than 10 of the core members of the Maute group entered Marawi on May 23.
But the numbers multiplied when members like him, who were residing in Marawi, joined the battle, together with the prisoners who escaped from the city and district jails.
He said he now regrets joining the terror group after seeing how his hometown has been destroyed, and realizing that many of his relatives and friends lost their houses.
"Nagsisisi ako kasi hindi ko nasabi sa mayor sa Marawi na may papasok sa Marawi. Narinig ko sa Piagapo na may giyera papasok sa Marawi, akala ko joke lang 'yun hindi ko pinagsasabi," he said.
(I regret that I did not warn the mayor of Marawi about the arrival of the group in the city. I heard in Piagapo that there would be war in Marawi. I thought it was a joke so I did not tell anyone.)
VULNERABLE TO EXTREMISM
A group advocating peace education earlier said young people are among the most vulnerable to the influence of criminals, gangs and even extremists.
Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman, executive director of the Teach Peace, Build Peace movement, said this is most especially true among children in some areas of Mindanao who are exposed to conflict and injustice.
She said that this is the reason why peace education, in both the informal and formal settings, is crucial in preventing conflict, especially in areas where there are different faiths and cultures.