PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte admitted on Tuesday that the ongoing war in Marawi City saddened him as it showed him that terrorism has arrived in the Philippines
“We have suffered casualties, the biggest so far in my present year. And I am sad that terrorism has arrived in my land,” said Duterte in his speech during a visit to one of the two Australian navy vessels docked in Manila.
Duterte remained optimistic, however, that the siege in Marawi, which began last May 23, would be over “in about one week”.
“We’re coping. We hope that it would be finished in about one week,” the President said despite the military’s failed attempts to meet previous deadlines to retake the city.
On September 28, the President also said government troops would be able to free Marawi City by “the end of the month” but the fighting persisted.
The President also admitted anew that the siege staged by the Islamic State-inspired Maute terrorists was well-planned and the government underestimated their armed capability.
He said the terrorists were able to stockpile weapons and fight back despite their dwindling forces more than a month after the bloody standoff erupted.
“How they were able to stockpile arms and they’re fighting into three, four months already. But one thing is sure, it’s always intelligence and it’s easy for them to do that because of the mixed population,” Duterte said.
“We are not against Moro or Muslim. I myself have a little of… because of my grandmother who is a Maranao Muslim. I don’t have anything against them but it’s the terrorism that is being imported…ISIS is quite active,” he said, using another name for the IS.
“Just a reminder of everybody to raise it awareness, it’s not bad to be strict in immigration laws. It has really something to do with self preservation of a nation,” he added.
On May 23, a group led by Omar and Abdullah Maute, and Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon attacked Marawi in hopes of establishing a caliphate of the ISIS.
The crisis prompted President Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao. After the declaration reached the 60-day limit, Congress overwhelmingly voted to extend martial law in the strife-torn region until yearend.
Last June, the military said it would no longer set timetables for operations against the ISIS-linked extremists.
Security forces originally sought to finish the operations against the Maute militants last June 2 but stiff resistance and the presence of trapped civilians prevented them from meeting the deadline.
On June 4, Duterte said the crisis may be finished in “about three days” but the military has readjusted the deadline to retake the besieged city.