WOMEN and children warriors in the company of the remaining Maute-IS extremists will be “killed”, as well, if they will not surrender, top military officials said on Tuesday as government forces entered the final phase to liberate Marawi City.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces Chief Eduardo Ano both agreed that that the Marawi crisis would be over “within the month” because the Maute extremists, numbering less than 50, were running out of ammunition and food.
Lorenzana said these terrorists would die “because they are not surrendering.” He said: “So, kailangan kunin natin isa-isa ‘yan (We need to get them one by one). If they did not surrender then they will be killed.”
Ano said he was certain that no matter what happened “hard core” Maute leader, Isnilon Hapilon, would fight till the end.
“We don’t see that these people will surrender. To their followers we appeal to them to surrender na because they will die there.”
The DND head said these women and children fighters could be neutralized because “they’re shooting back and they are also inflicting injuries to our people.
He said that the troops have been receiving surrender feelers. But they were cautious about any effort by Maute terrorists to surrender. “Sabi ng tropa bakit ngayon pa sila mag-su surrender na marami na tayo namatay. Namatayan na tayo ng 140 people tapos 1,400 nasugatan (The troops asked why they thought about surrendering only now. Now that 140 soldiers have been killed and over 1,400 wounded).”
Ano said he has no idea how many child warriors were among the remaining Maute force. “Our observers saw them. Actually, our soldiers were thinking twice if they will assault (them) or not. It could be that they are hostages who were given firearms, just like ‘scarecrows style.’ We have to be very selective unless they start shooting us back, then we will (shoot them).”
“They will fight it out. They say, let us be martyr. We will set example to their comrades and the world that here in Marawi they are able to put up a good stand and they are martyrs to be idolized and worshipped and imitated by other recruits,” Ano said.
Lorenzana and Ano were at the Senate to attend the public hearing by the committee on Marawi City Rehabilitation, headed by Sen. Gregorio Honasan 2nd , to discuss the estimated cost of construction, rehabilitation of the damaged properties and the actions needed for the immediate post-disaster recovery and normalization of the community.
The DND chief gave a “ballpark” figure of P50 billion needed to rehabilitate Marawi City. He also said that he was seriously studying the proposal of some architects to “flatten” some of the totally damaged buildings at the ground zero since this will be cheaper than repair them.
Lorenzana said they have yet to decide whether the military would bomb the Bato mosque where the extremists were reportedly hiding.
“That will depend on what happen in the next couple of days if they will hide there. It will be the decision of the commanders on the ground, according to the President (Rodrigo Duterte).
“We ask permission to the President. He does not want to bomb it. But he said if they are still putting up a strong fight and will not surrender and our troops will be put in danger, then I leave it to the ground commander to decide,” he added.
Ano said the presence of armed women and children among the extremists added up to the challenge the government troops would face in ending the rebellion.
Some of these are family members of the Maute terrorists.
“It’s difficult. But judging from the long period of fighting in Marawi, our troops can easily discern the real Maute extremists (among the armed women and children),” the AFP chief said.
Ano said they used a megaphone in urging the Maute members to surrender as well as guide hostages trapped in the fighting to run to the soldiers’ position.
“That is effective. We have a megaphone there. Our message can be heard up to one kilometer. It gave some hostages the courage to come out from their hiding place and found their way to the position of our soldiers,” he added.