THE military set a new deadline onwhen the crisis in Marawi City would end: 10 days or at least two weeks.
Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., chief of the military’s Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom), gave the new date as the fighting entered its 126th day on Monday.
“It won’t take a month anymore, it will take days only or weeks, we just cannot specify whether it will be finished in 10 days or maybe two weeks,” Galvez said in a televised press conference from Marawi City.
“What we said last time that [the fighting]will take more or less two weeks or three weeks, most probably, that would be our timeline,” he added.
On the first week of September, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the clashes in the besieged city would not reach Christmas.
Several officials from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) had refused to give a deadline for it may affect the ongoing operations of troops on the ground.
As of the latest military count, at least 1,730 civilian hostages have been rescued from the main battle area, including Father Teresito “Chito” Soganub, who celebrated his first mass in Camp Aguinaldo on Sunday.
According to Galvez, there are more or less 46 hostages remaining inside the battle zone with Islamic State-linked Maute terrorists holding them.
Four hostages were recently rescued by the military and were presented to the public on Monday. Galvez, however, declined to reveal when and how these hostages were recovered.
They were identified as Hadji Abdullah Nicon Rakin Baunto, Kiram Datu Dakula Ampatua, Abdulnasser Ergas Mangondaya and Lordvin Acopio, the Dansalan College teacher who was rescued along with Soganub on September 16 inside the Bato Ali Mosque.
“If we will reveal how we rescued them, [then]it might compromise our ongoing rescue operations on the other hostages left,” he said.
Hostages retrieved have to undergo a debriefing and there are some “intricacies” that cannot be disclosed before the public and to the media, Galvez added.
“We would like to say that this is a good indication that [the Maute]has loosened up but we cannot relax and lower our guard. We all know that the Maute and the IS (Islamic State) here [in Marawi]are capable of doing something,” he said.
Galvez also noted that there were high-rise buildings along the Banggolo market area that were taken back by the troops.
“So we can observe that our operational push is going smoothly considering that all the strategic areas have been recovered already [by the military],” he said, adding that the remaining hostages inside the city will not be collateral damages
He also said that the reason why the military could not disclose the full details of the rescue operations of the hostages was because “it might affect” or complicate the situation of the hostages remaining and the troops as well.
“It might be disadvantageous [for the hostages]because the situation might constrain their movements and also, we are all aware that anything can happen when the Maute becomes desperate,” Galvez said.
“Our rescue operations are still continuing and the situations is very volatile [and]anytime, we can conduct rescue [operations]so the information being provided [by rescued hostages]are very vital,” he said.
While debriefing the saved hostages, Galvez narrated that they were still “letting go” of the trauma from the civilians while still in captive.
Galvez then revealed that the hostages’ trauma made it hard for the military to string “coherent” information in the first two days of the fighting.
“What we are doing to them is we let them sleep to let go of their trauma,” he said.
Galvez also expressed that the WestMinCom was waiting for additional forces to be sent to Marawi City, helping them out in blocking the possible exit routes of the Maute members.
“We have a good spread over of our forces. The instruction to us is no going in and no way out so that is how we will be spreading our forces and it is really very good since it will lessen the risk [that the Maute]would exit from the battle zone,” he said.
The additional forces will be deployed to patch up gaps that could be used as an escape route of the Maute from Marawi.
Galvez said these forces would be focusing on the gaps especially in Lanao Lake so it could be sealed off preventing the Maute from calling out additional members from the outside and escaping from the operations of the military.
“We are still looking into more gaps so we will be sending more troops inside the MBA (main battle area),” he noted. DEMPSEY REYES