The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) admitted on Friday that it could not meet the June 2 deadline set by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to clear Marawi City of militants.
In a news conference in Malacañang, AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said that no deadline has been set on defeating the Maute Group forces.
“We are doing our best to accomplish this mission immediately,” he said.
“No deadlines are relative to the amount of resistance that still exists and the threat in the area. It was a deadline that was set forth and provided by the Secretary of National Defense so we can aim for it. But the final decision actually rests on the ground commander. And based on the report that we’re getting, I don’t think we can meet that deadline today to completely free Marawi of every single armed element in every street,” Padilla told reporters.
“So until such time that every member of this armed group, this rebellious group that still wants to make a stand inside Marawi exists, we cannot totally say we have cleared Marawi,” he added.
Lorenzana, the administrator of martial law, earlier set the June 2 deadline for security forces to finish the Marawi crisis.
As of the latest reports from ground commanders, Padilla said members of the Maute group still occupy some commercial establishments in the city.
Padilla said the military will continue their air strikes despite the bungled bombing that accidentally killed 10 soldiers.
“We continue to apply commensurate military power on these existing threats and pockets of resistance and will continue to do so including the use of air strike,” he said.
He added that the aircraft and crew involved in the air strike that killed government troops have been pulled out of Marawi.
“The worst scenario that can be likened to the worst nightmare for every pilot who tries to assist his fellow uniformed services on the ground is to have a case or an incident like this,” he said.
Padilla clarified that only 10 soldiers were killed by “friendly fire.”
“The current focus of operation of our military forces remains to be the clearing of Marawi from armed elements that have still holed up in the area; the continued rescue operations for trapped residents; the continued recovery of civilian victims and potential casualties who have been victimized from atrocities from the armed elements,” he said.
“Continued efforts also is being exerted in our collaboration and coordination with other concerned agencies to ascertain the status of victims whose families continue to ask for assistance on their whereabouts, as well as those of the hostages that are known to us,” Padilla said. CATHERINE S. VALENTE