MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 2 – 1:24 p.m.) A suspected financier of the Maute group that was involved in the recently ended occupation of Marawi City was arrested in Novaliches, Quezon City on Friday, October 27, radio reports said.
Chief Superintendent Guillermo Eleazar, director of the Quezon City Police District, said the suspect, Rasdy Malawani, also known as Rasdi Macabangkit, 42, managed the Salam Bazaar at the Novaliches Plaza Mall, collecting rent from stall holders.
The store is believed owned by Ominta Romato “Farhana” Maute, the mother of brothers Abdullah and Omarkhayam, who led the extremist group that battled government forces for control of Marawi for five months from May 23.
The police and military personnel who arrested Malawani also recovered a .45 caliber pistol, a rocket-propelled grenade, and bank transaction receipts supposedly linking him to the Maute matriarch.
He will be charged with illegal possession of these weapons.
But National Capital Region Police Office Director Oscar Albayalde said Malawani could face rebellion charges as well fo aiding the Maute group.
At a press briefing, Eleazar said that, following Ominta’s arrest soon after fighting broke out in Marawi, it was Malawani who remitted the rent he collected — an average of P300,000 a month — to Azesha Makabangkit-Maute, also known as “Lily,” in Marawi City.
Azesha is the wife of Madie Maute, who was killed during the fighting in Marawi in August.
Eleazar said a financial investigation is underway into how Malawani and Farhana’s legitimate businesses provided funds to the Maute group.
“We have reason to believe, based on the information (and) the case build-up conducted that funds that were obtained from these businesses are being used to support activities in Marawi,” he said.
Albayalde said police are monitoring individual supporters or sympathizers of the Maute group, including “lone wolves” like Malawani.
“Dito kasi (Here), they can do legitimate business and puwede sila magpunta kung saan-saan kasi marami silang kamag-anak at enclave (they can go wherever they want because they have many relatives and enclaves),” he added.
At the same time, he stressed, “we would like to make clear that there is no clear and present danger of any terror attack in Metro Manila. Metro Manila remains peaceful.”