MANILA -- Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday said that they are still verifying reports claiming that Malaysian terrorist Amin Baco is now the new ISIS emir in Southeast Asia.

He made this announcement at the sidelines of the DND's 78th founding anniversary ceremony at the AFP Theater in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

"We are still looking for Amin Baco. We heard the news that he could be the successor of Isnilon (Hapilon) as the Emir of those terrorists," Lorenzana said.

He also admitted that Baco is not as high profile or famous as his predecessor Hapilon as the former's name does not appear on intelligence reports or lists concerning active terrorists.

Since the Maute Group and its allies have splintered following the successful government offensive against them, the DND chief said that they are now pursuing Baco and the other remaining stragglers.

"Kalat-kalat na sila, hinahabol namin sila. Kung mahuhuli namin siya eh di maganda, (They are now scattered. We are chasing them. It will be good if we will catch him.)" Lorenzana said.

The DND chief said they still have no firm idea on how many Maute stragglers are still remaining in Marawi City, as these individuals, in ones or twos, just pop out of nowhere from hiding places in the war-torn locality.

Lorenzana added that Baco and the remaining terrorists are no longer a force to reckon with as they could no longer hold any ground and sustain a fight due to their splintered condition, lack of weapons and supplies.

"They could fire and hide. The problem now is only to pursue them," he added.

While searching for the stragglers is a hard task, the DND chief said that government has no recourse but to search for these terrorists one place at a time until all of them are neutralized and accounted for.

Around 923 Maute Group terrorists and their allies were killed in the five-month campaign against the terror group which started last May 23.

Some 165 soldiers and police officers were killed in the offensive which only ended on Oct. 23.

On Monday, Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa said that Baco is now the new ISIS Emir in Southeast Asia following the death of Hapilon in Marawi City last Oct. 17.

He also estimated that around 39 Maute Group stragglers are still hiding in Marawi City. (PNA)