By: Genalyn D. Kabiling
After four months of fighting between government troops and Islamic State-linked rebels in Marawi City, President Duterte is hopeful that the conflict would be over at the end of the month.
“Today, we are still fighting but I hope that by the end of the month (Sept. 30), we’d be able to resolve the issue,” the President said about the Marawi situation during his visit to Balangiga, Eastern Samar last Thursday.
“As I have said, we are all Filipinos and if by the grace of God, we’re able to finish everything, the business of stopping the rebellion, not necessarily killing, we will be happy,” said Duterte who has placed Mindanao under martial law to quell the rebellion.
The President said he has visited Marawi five times and intends to make another trip to the war zone. “I’m going back there, almost on a regular basis, until such time that peace is attained,” he said.
Once government troops have cleared Marawi of the rebel threat, the President insisted that there was no need to hold a victory celebration. He said the soldiers would just pack up and quietly leave the area.
“My orders to the military is that kung manalo man tayo, we do not celebrate any victory in Mindanao simply because we are waging a war actually against our own people and it would not look good, especially people who have adopted other religions,” he said.
“So I said na, “Kung manalo tayo, matapos na you just pack up your things and go silently out of the place,” he added.
The military engineering brigade, however, will remain “to help rebuild your city,” according to the President.
The President said he takes responsibility for the Marawi operations “because I declared the martial law and I sent my soldiers and police there to die.”
He admitted that he could have been impeached from office he did not address the rebellion in the area.
“That is why everyday when I read the briefers, it really breaks my heart. Pero wala akong magawa. I could have been impeached kung wala akong ginawa about the situation,” he said.
Duterte admitted the government was surprised by the huge stockpile of weapons and ammunition of the Maute terror group in Marawi.
“We knew that they were stacking arms. We knew that they were arms going around and passing around. But we never realized the extent of their ordnance and bombs, explosives, and guns and ammunition,” he said.