MANILA, Philippines — a city lies in destruction so the victory is no reason for celebration, yet President Duterte nevertheless proclaimed Marawi freed from fear monger powers.
Duterte made the declaration a day after Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and Maute terror group founder Omarkhayam Maute were killed by security forces, finishing the five-month crisis inspired by the Islamic State (IS) terror network in Marawi.
“I hereby declare Marawi liberated from the terrorist influence that marks the beginning of rehabilitation,” Duterte said in a speech before the soldiers.
He guaranteed the troopers who fought the extremists that nobody would be left behind.
No longer wearing the military uniform of the commander-in-chief, Duterte traveled to Marawi for the seventh time since the Mautes laid attack to the city on May 23, which provoked him to proclaim military law in Mindanao.
Duterte was joined by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Eduardo Año, Army chief Gen. Rolando Bautista and Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa.
But there is no reason to celebrate the executing of Hapilon and Maute since the government’s priority is the restoration of Marawi, the President said.
“We have restored peace in Marawi but that should not be a cause for celebration because we have destroyed the city in the process,” he said.
Duterte also extended his apologies to the 700,000 individuals displaced by the conflict.
According to the AFP, the small number of remaining Maute fighters can be considered a law enforcement matter.
“They are no longer a serious threat to hinder the rehabilitation of Marawi,” Año said.
AFP spokesman Gen. Restituto Padilla said the deaths of Hapilon and Maute dealt a major hit to local terror groups.
Padilla said the military ought to be cautious against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, which may sympathize with the Maute group.
He said there could be other groups sympathetic to the Maute group and the IS that may dispatch attacks somewhere else in Mindanao.
Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, who was also in Marawi, said the President went to the rescue hostages.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella praised the AFP’s triumph in Marawi.