SOLDIERS in Marawi City welcomed an “unexpected” visitor on Saturday whose presence on the ground was enough to give their morale a boost.
Sen. Manny Pacquiao, an Army reservist, visited the soldiers in the war zone on Saturday to give them “moral support.”
“I gave them moral support. They were very happy because they did not expect my visit,” Pacquiao said in a radio interview.
Pacquiao said he was confident the crisis in Marawi City would end soon based on the dwindling number of Maute terrorists.
“Pakonti ng pakonti (ang kalaban). Malapit na matapos [The number of enemies is getting smaller. It will end soon],” he said.
He added: “The soldiers were asking for our prayers. Let’s pray for them.”
The neophyte senator, who was in special forces battle dress, arrived in Marawi City at about 9 a.m., said Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, spokeswoman of the Armed Forces’ Western Mindanao Command.
Petinglay said Pacquiao talked to the soldiers, signed the “support our troops” wall, and was given updates on the war in the city that has been raging since May 23.
“He [Pacquiao] supports the troops all the way, and he’s willing to join with them in their fight against the terrorist group if allowed to do so, but he jokingly said that we will lose a boxing hero if he does that,” Petinglay said.
“But he said if he’s given the chance, he will do that because he said it happened before, in another part of Mindanao he joined the troops,” she added.
The world boxing icon-turned-politician joined soldiers in a breakfast “boodle flight” and distributed groceries to the troops.
Before Pacquiao, President Rodrigo Duterte himself visited the soldiers in Marawi on July 20.
With NEIL A. ALCOBER