Updated 10:46 AM PHT Mon, November 28, 2016
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — They are seen carrying black flags with the insignia of ISIS. They have long firearms believed to be obtained from an Indonesian terrorist affiliated with Jemaah Islamiyah.
They are the Maute group, which the military claims is one of the newest Islamist terrorist groups in Mindanao.
The military first encountered the group in 2013, when their checkpoint operation was attacked in Madalum town, Lanao del Sur.
The group was also involved in the recent Davao bombings a few months ago, which left about a dozen dead.
The Maute group also launched attacks early this year, believed to be test missions to get recognition from ISIS.
And on Friday, they were back again.
The group has put the town of Butig in Lanao del Sur under siege, capturing the old municipal hall.
According to Lanao del Sur Vice Governor Mamintal Adiong, the group is occupying the old building, which has been unused since they relocated to a newer municipal hall.
"Ang grupo ng mga Maute, nasa munisipyo, ang munisipyo naman doon hindi ginagamit kasi mayroong bagong munisipyo ang ginagamit ng bagong mayor natin," he said.
[The Maute group is at the old municipal hall which is not being used because the mayor is at the new building.]
The military said they would not allow the terrorist group to capture the new municipal hall.
They are also aggressively hunting down the group's members, which are estimated to be between 50 and 100 people.
All-out war not the solution
President Duterte has admitted that he is afraid of ISIS infiltrating the Philippine shores. Yet, he says he can't just declare an all-out war at the same time.
In a speech at the San Beda Law grand alumni homecoming on Saturday, the President said that all-out military operations were not the solution to rebellions against the government.
"Sabi ko anong gusto ninyo [What do you want]? I mean I could do it, I could burn Jolo now, I could bomb the place. And in the mountains mag carpet bombing ako [I would carpet bomb the place] and I would tell the military after the operation, ayaw ko makita na isang tao standing [I don't want to see one man left standing]. Do you want me to do that? And if I kill children and innocent people and all, can we survive as a nation?" he said.
The President said the Maute members are guided by nationalism and love for their homeland in pursuing their mission and offensive against the military.
He admitted he will try to talk to the group first instead of crushing them outright.
As to when the government can end the conflict in Lanao del Sur, the answer is still hanging in the balance.