Duterte on Marawi:  even if it takes a year …

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 21 July) — “The fight in Marawi will soon be over,” President Rodrigo Duterte, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, announced before the Davao Investment Conference Friday afternoon.

But just as soon as he declared it, Duterte also said that he would not order an assault on the ISIS-inspired Maute Group holding fort in the Grand Mosque in Marawi City but wait even if it takes a year, to save “300 hostages.”

President Rodrigo Duterte tells the business sector during the Davao Investment Conference in Davao City on 21 July 2017 that the fighting in Marawi will soon be over but also said he would not order an assault on the Grand Mosque where the Maute Group is reportedly holding fort, to save the lives of 300 civilians hostaged or trapped. PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Duterte said what is stopping government is that the Maute Group is still holding some “300 hostages.”  The President is apparently referring to an estimated 100 hostages and some 200 civilians who remain trapped in the conflict zone.

He said the ISIS-inspired Maute Group and its allies are holding the hostages in a big mosque — referring to the Grand Mosque — which he said has underground tunnels.

“Sabi ko we will just have to wait it out … baril-barilan lang kayo diyan” (I said we will just have to wait it out … just pretend shooing) but warned against mounting an assault as the enemy might harm the civilians or even behead them.

“If we have to wait there for one year, let’s wait for one year” but “give them food because there are people hungry there. Huwag lang bala – pagkain lang (Not bullets. Just food). Anyway they are there as prisoner also of the other side so it is our moral duty to see to it that they live and that they are fed,” Duterte added.

He did not say how the food aid will be sent to them.

Duterte said it is not important to him if you are Moro or Christian or Vietnamese. What is important is “we do not want to kill people so even even if it is expensive — nakikita nyo lang yang tumatakbo dyan paputukan nyo lang (if you see someone running there just shoot at them) but no assault there” because “300 people, that’s 300 lives.”  (Carolyn O. Arguillas /MindaNews)