PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday apologized to the Maranao people for declaring martial law in Mindanao and for the destruction wrought by the Islamic State-linked Maute group in Marawi City.
In remarks during his visit to an evacuation center in Iligan City, the President said he was left with no choice but to declare martial law to wipe the Maute terrorists.
“I would like to say to the Maranao people that I am very, very, very sorry na nangyari ito sa atin [that this happened to us]. Sana kung madaling panahon [I hope soon], you will find a new heart to forgive my soldiers, ang gobyerno pati ako [the government and me]for declaring martial law,” Duterte said.
“Wala akong choice e, sinisira na ang Marawi [I have no choice, Marawi is being destroyed]. I have to drive them out. But I am very sorry. Pakiabot na lang doon sa mga kapatid nating mga Maranao ang aking hinanakit din sa nangyari na ito. Patawarin n’yo po kami [Please convey to our Maranao brothers and sisters my resentment over what happened here. Please forgive us],” he added.
Fighting in Marawi City has entered its fifth week, and over 300 people have been killed, according to an official count.
Hundreds of thousands of Marawi residents, meanwhile, have been evacuated out of the city.
The President promised swift rehabilitation efforts for war-torn Marawi to make the Muslim-majority city “beautiful again.”
“Tutulungan ko kayo. Huwag kayong mag-alala. Tutulungan ko kayo hanggang [I will help you. Have no worry, I’ll help you until your] relocation. And then, we will rehabilitate Marawi. Gaganda iyon ulit [It will be beautiful again],” he said.
Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella earlier announced that the government would allocate P10 billion for the rehabilitation of Marawi under the “Bangon Marawi” program.
Abella said the Department of National Defense would lead the recovery efforts.
The P10-billion fund for Marawi rehabilitation “was an approximation given by the President,” he said.
Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque has filed a bill seeking a P10-billion supplementary budget for Marawi’s rehabilitation.
Engineering brigades mobilized
The military spokesman on Tuesday said Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Eduardo Año had ordered engineering brigades from the Philippine Army and the Philippine Navy to prepare for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi City.
At least two battalions are set to be deployed to Marawi, said Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr., AFP spokesman.
“They are preparing already and in fact there are some members from the engineering units [of the AFP]deployed there [in Marawi],” he told reporters.
“It cannot be done by the military alone, it has to be the whole of the government doing the rehabilitation, reconstruction and rebuilding [of Marawi], so we will work hand in hand with everyone else, but we can provide the lead initially,” he added.
Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesman of the Lanao del Sur Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said the provincial government would start the mobilization of personnel from the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and village chiefs to build shelter for displaced citizens in Marawi City.
Adiong said cash assistance worth P5,000 would also be given to the displaced persons.
A team from the New York-based United Nations Development Program is set to help in the rehabilitation of the city. The same team handled the reconstruction of areas in Leyte devastated by Typhoon Yolanda in 2013, Adiong said.
“It is going to be massive because of the damage caused by air strikes and bombardment on both civilian and government properties,” he said.
Adiong said the provincial government had yet to estimate how much the rehabilitation would cost.
with DEMPSEY REYES