SIX DAYS after taking his "private rest time,” President Rodrigo Duterte made a public appearance Saturday to say that the security forces were not caught flat-footed in the dealing with the Islamic State-inspired Maute terror group.
Speaking before the Army’s 401st Brigade in Butuan City, Duterte pinned the blame on the government’s “soft policy” towards Islamist fighters that led to the uprising of Maute group in Marawi City on May 23.
“It was not a question of failure on the part of the government. It’s that we have adopted a soft policy towards the rebels,” the Chief Executive said.
“We took it really for granted. We all know that it’s a big issue but we ignored it because we never knew at that time who are the enemies really are,” he added.
Duterte made the statement after several government officials, including a Supreme Court (SC) justice, slammed the government troops’ failure of intelligence to detect the entry of terrorist group in Marawi City.
At last week’s oral arguments on anti-martial law petitions, SC Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo said the military had a “total” failure of intelligence on Maute group’s attack in Marawi City, citing that the rebels apparently appeared to be “well prepared.”
On May 23, Duterte was prompted to put Mindanao under martial rule after local and foreign extremists laid siege in Marawi City.
The death toll on Marawi siege has risen to 310, including 26 civilians, 225 militants, and 59 government troops, as of June 15.
Duterte explained the bandits, who seemed to have been prepared in launching attacks in Marawi City, may have taken advantage on the government’s soft-leaning approach to other Moro groups, such as Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
“Now, it appeared that Maute [members] were bringing the firearms surreptitiously and we were unable to determine how many ammunitions and guns they have,” Duterte said.
“It was not a failure of intelligence because if they [government forces] see armed men claiming to be MI[LF], MN[LF], the standing order is not to touch them because it might have been resolved through peace negotiations.”
Amid the ongoing clashes in Marawi City, Duterte admitted that the battle against the bandits are no-easy task “have so corrupted the name of God in the form of religion to kill many innocent persons and to destroy for nothing.”
Duterte then vehemently warned the government troops against the “danger” both Maute and Isis could do in the country.
“The fighting is going on but of course, it’s winding up, but at the cost also of many soldiers also. And that is the danger of Maute and Isis. Be vigilant. It’s hard to fight a person who wants to die,” he said.
"They have so corrupted the name of God in the form of religion to kill many innocent persons and to destroy for nothing,” Duterte added.
Duterte said the state forces should ramp up their offensives against the Islamist gunmen, in order to "nip [terrorism] in the bud."
“It’s really difficult. Now, our enemies are notorious. In anywhere in the Philippines, if the intelligence reports their presence, we should start the buildup at end it in the nip in the bud.” (SunStar Philippines)