'Don't blame Maranao for destruction of Marawi City'.
A Lanao del Sur official has rejected the assignment of blame to the Maranao for the destruction of Marawi City in the fighting between government forces and Islamic State-inspired local terrorists.
Now in its seventh week, the fighting has displaced most of Marawi's more than 200,000 residents and reduced much of the beautiful, lakeside city into rubble.
People blame the Maranao for the devastation, saying they allowed the terrorists to come to the city.
Even President Rodrigo Duterte, in public speeches, has said he is angry because the people of the city allowed the Maute terror group to set up base in the city and stock up on weapons and munitions.
But Zia Alonto Adiong, speaking for the Lanao provincial government on Sunday, said it was 'preposterous' to blame the people of Marawi and the Maranao in general for the crisis, which started on May 23.
'We are the victims here. We are the ones suffering and to say that we did not do anything about it is like saying we picked up a hammer and hit our heads with it,' Adiong said.
But even if the residents were armed, he said, they could not have engaged and thwarted the attack of the Maute group, as it was 'well coordinated, well planned' and carried out by 'terrorists who had the support of international terror networks.'
At least eight of the 379 terrorists killed in the fighting were foreigners, including fighters from Indonesia, Malaysia, Libya and Chechnya, according to the military.
The Maute terrorists and their allies from the Abu Sayyaf bandit group stormed Marawi on May 23 to establish an enclave of the Middle East-based Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in Southeast Asia.
Adiong said the attack happened when the people of Marawi were not in fighting mood, as they were busy preparing for the start of the fasting month of Ramadan.
Adiong lamented that the Maranao were being blamed for the attack on Marawi while residents of other areas previously targeted by terrorists had not been faulted at all.
'We have witnessed the Zamboanga siege and the Ipil siege. Nobody blamed the civilians of Zamboanga, nobody blamed the residents of Ipil,' he said.