Duterte on Marawi Siege: “I did not anticipate or even guess there would be so much ordnance”

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 23 May) — Describing what happened in Marawi as a “very sad experience,” President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday admitted they had “fallen short in some respects” on the way the crisis was handled, but assumed full responsibility for it, claiming he “did not anticipate or even guess that there would be so much ordnance and at the fight (would take) about four months to finish.”

All combat operations in Marawi were terminated by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on October 23, 2017, exactly five months to the day it started.  A week earlier, on October 17, Duterte declared Marawi “liberated from the terrorist influence,” one day after the Abu Sayyaf’s Isnilon Hapilon, proclaimed Emir of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia, and Omar Maute of the Maute Group, were killed.

President Rodrigo Duterte joins the symbolic flag-raising rites inside the Jamiatul Philippine Al- Islamia in Banggolo District, Marawi City on 17 October 2017 and declares Marawi City “liberated from the terrorist infuence”. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

All of these faults, if it is indeed one, or our faults, it belongs and it falls on my shoulders as Commander-in-Chief. And I assume full responsibility to the nation of what’s going to happen,” Duterte vowed at the 120th anniversary celebration of the Philippine Navy at the Coconut Palace of the CCP Complex in Manila.

Duterte said intelligence reports on what was happening in Marawi “came very fast that there was a buildup.”

“And I said for all of its — the shortsightedness maybe I — it falls upon my shoulders to bear the burden. I and I alone should be responsible for that,” he said.

At the press conference aired live from Moscow at 11 p.m. (Manila time) on May 23, 2017, Lorenzana said he did not think there was a “lapse of intelligence,” but “it’s just appreciation of the intelligence that wsz lacking there.”

“Baka hindi nila… Akala nila eh kayang-kaya but you know, it’s just… There’s intelligence there. It’s just the appreciation of what intelligence means that medyo nagkamali sila,” Lorenzana said.

Duterte opted to cut short his Russia trip and return home the next day.

“That is a painful realization to be signing something (martial law proclamation) about your country, about the safety of your country, about the safety of the people and to give the orders outside of the Republic of the Philippines. It… Probably, I would say that it leaves a dent in the — in my own history when I go out of government service.”

“So masakit para sa akin na both Filipinos die. But since I am the Commander-in-Chief, I had to stay with my soldiers and my policemen..” he said.

On Wednesday afternoon, Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence Go issued a statement saying the President is “not keen on visiting Marawi” now becuase the start of the siege is “something that is not worth celebrating.”

“What we should do at this time is to reflect on the lessons we have learned during this dark chapter in our history, to prevent a similar incident from happening again in any part of our country and to sustain our efforts to rebuild and rehabilitate the city,” he said.

Go added that “the President and I prefer to join the people of Marawi City during the celebration of its liberation.”

Duterte declared Marawi’s liberation on October 17.

Go said the President wants to visit Marawi when the situation there is back to normal.

Killed during the five-month siege, according to Col. Romeo Brawner, Deputy Commander of Joint Task Force Ranao were 166 soldiers and police; “more than 1,800” wounded in action; “between 1,000 to 1,100 Maute-ISIS” killed; 1,771 civilians rescued; and “47 civilians killed by the Maute.”

The Department of Health in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao listed 39 evacuee deaths as of October 10, 2017. Of the 39, 21 were aged five and above and 18 were below five years old.  Of the 21, six were home-based and of the 18, four were home-based.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) reported 77,000 families or around 350,000 persons displaced from Marawi and neighboring cities.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)