Habib Mujahab Hashim, chair of the MNLF Islamic Command Council (MNLF ICC), made the statement after groups of individuals coming from Basilan claimed to be new recruits of the group after they were apprehended in Zamboanga City and in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay on Tuesday.
Mr. Hashim clarified that there is no agreement between the Philippine government and MNLF on such a recruitment arrangement.
He added that the MNLF has not authorized anyone to recruit new members.
Mr. Hashim said it is possible that the pronouncement of President Rodrigo R. Duterte asking the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the MNLF to help government troops combat the Maute terrorist group in Marawi City could have prompted certain groups to recruit new MNLF members without consent from the group’s leadership.
Mr. Hashim said they are verifying who could be behind the recruitment.
On Tuesday, local police apprehended 27 individuals, including two minors, in a house located in Barangay Guiwan after residents reported on the sudden influx of new faces in their community.
Another 40 unarmed men en route to Lanao del Sur were also intercepted at a check point being manned by the military in the municipality of Ipil.
“The MNLF Provincial Coordinator in the province are now talking with the military there [in Zamboanga Sibugay] to find out if they (40 arrested) are indeed bonafide members or not,” Mr. Hashim said.
All the apprehended individuals have been subjected to a profiling process to determine their identities and background.