MARAWI CITY—There’s another war being waged in this city aside from the one involving bullets and bombs.
It is one being waged online, through text messages and social media, between supporters and enemies of the Maute group, which had claimed to be Islamic State followers and sent members to set up a caliphate in this predominantly Muslim city.
On Saturday, text messages and social media posts challenged Maranaos to assert their maratabat, or pride, by helping flush Maute out.
“Our Maranao brothers, where did our pride go?” one text message said.
The same text said it appeared that Maranaos “have surrendered this pride to Isnilon Hapilon, who is from Basilan.”
Out to destroy
It said Hapilon was out to destroy Marawi. “He destroyed the land of the Maranaos and he is not even from here,” it said.
On social media, posts criticized Maranaos who had been complaining about the military operations here.
One said it appeared that those criticizing the operation were either “ignorant of the real situation or they are only antimilitary.”
“What have we become? We are now against efforts that would help free us from this terror,” it said.
The military was mum on whether it was behind the pro-military operation posts or text messages.
What it had confirmed so far was that it had asked Facebook Philippines to take down at least 63 fake accounts believed to be those of supporters and sympathizers of Maute.
Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera, spokesperson for the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, said the Facebook accounts were being used to spread false information against military operations.
Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., head of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, asked social media users not to share or post images of the destruction of Marawi City, saying it could generate more support for the terrorists.
Some Maranao residents agreed with Galvez’s observation that the bombing run could deepen antigovernment sentiments.
“Generally, the people of Marawi are not extremists. We are Muslims but we are civilized also,” said resident Dino Gandarosa.
Saripada Pacasum, provincial disaster risk reduction management officer, said he also did not think that the bombing of the city could lead to sympathy for Maute.
“Basically, our roots are here,” Pacasum said.
“Our forefathers started here. So if any of us see the images of destruction, we are deeply hurt. We cannot imagine that this would really happen—things that we see only in movies,” he said.
But Pacasum said what happened to the city should not further divide Muslims and Christians along religious lines.
“I hope people should not fuel the sentiments anymore,” he added.