Duterte promises Marawi troops vacations in Hong Kong, visit by celebrities

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 12 September) — President Rodrigo Duterte visited Marawi City for the fourth time on Monday, Day 112 of the Marawi Crisis, gave away cigarettes and other goodies to troops, promised them vacations in Hongkong after the war but will bring in, soon, celebrities who helped him during the Presidential campaign, eliciting laughter when he told them they should limit themselves to “hikap lang” (touch only).

According to the official transcript released by the Presidential News Desk of the Presidential Communications and Operations Office,  Duterte said he brought in some cigarettes because he knows some of them smoke and they are under stress because of the war, but warned against the dangers of smoking, including cancer.

“I will not stop you now kasi under stress kayo. So maybe you can stop it siguro kung mga fourth stage na (of cancer). Balewala na rin (Useless),” he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte visits Marawi for the fourth time on Monday, 11 September 2017. The President visited on July 20, August 4, August 24 and September 11. SIMEON CELI, JR / Presidential Photo

Duterte signed Executive Order 26 banning smoking in all public places nationwide on May 16, a full week before clashes between government forces and the Maute Group started on May 23. Eight hours later, the President declared martial law over Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 cities.

The country’s first Mindanawon President whose grandmother was a Maranao, explained to the troops that the Maranao civilians are not the enemy, that “ayaw kong makipag-away ng Maranao lalo na `yang mga terorista” (I don’t like to fight with the Maranaos, especially the terrorists)  but “they committed the crime of rebellion.”

He said he is raging because they allowed the ISIS to come in.

Military officials have been saying the enemy forces they are fighting in Marawi are a “hybrid group,” comprising the predominantly Maranao Maute Group, the predominantly Yakan Abu Sayyaf group of Isnilon Hapilon, the alleged Southeast Asian “Emir” of the ISIS,  and foreign terrorists.

Duterte reiterated that in this war there will be “no quarters given, no quarters asked. Talagang matindi ito. Huwag na tayong magbolahan dito, patayan ‘to” (This is really tough. Let us not fool each other. We are here to fight to the death).

He said he would have suggested that he and the generals advance to where the enemies are” para matapos na itong… Nakakainis kasi na… Napaka walang kwenta, sinira mo ang Marawi. Sinira mo ‘yung buhay ng…   (so we can finish this  … It’s annoying … Worthless. You’ve destroyed Marawi. You’ve destroyed the lives of…). He did not finish his sentence.

Vacation in Hong Kong

Duterte asked women soldiers to raise their hands for a headcount. He recalled having told them to be behind the men but did not know that when the men advanced, the women also did.

He said he did not want women troops to be on the frontlines because “it’s unsettling sa akin,” quickly adding, “kayo, pagkatapos nito, maawa ang Allah, Hong Kong kayo lahat,” (With the help of Allah, when this is over,  you’ll all go to Hong Kong).  His announcement was greeted with applause.

President Rodrigo Duterte shakes hands with female troops in Marawi City during his fourth visit there on 11 September 2017. Duterte promised them vacations to Hong Kong when the fighting is over. SIMEON CELI, JR. / Presidential Photo

But there were too many men for the Hong Kong vacation, he said. “Ang maraming supply (there is plenty of supply, apparently referring to women), in Cainta, Davao, Cebu). The crowd laughed. He said he will have a raffle for a still undetermined number of troops who could avail of the Hong Kong vacation.

He said those who are lucky will go to Hong Kong with their wife and children. He explained it would be useless to send the troops to Hong Kong without their families.

“They’d always hanker for the children and the wife,” he said, adding those who win in the raffle can bring their wife and children, “with matching allowance.”

He reiterated that as soon as the fighting is over, they can go on vacation, even in Davao where Duterte served as mayor for 22 years.

He instructed Special Assistant to the President Lawrence “Bong” Go to bring in some “artista” (celebrities) to Marawi soon but warned the troops:  “hikap lang ha” (touch only). The troops laughed. “Hikap lang,” he repeated.

Applause for China

He also repeated earlier promises that he would buy brand new equipment like helicopters because one of the two helicopters from America crashed “unya bayad ta ana ha” (and we pay for that).

He said he wants only one supplier for the guns, that there are two sources at the moment —  US and China.China, he added, has been good to the Philippines and he asked his troops to give China a round of applause.

Before leaving, he thanked the soldiers and police for their service to the nation,  told them “steady lang mo” and gave them a salute.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)