MANILA— The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday underscored significant positive developments this week in war-torn Marawi City following the retaking of the Marawi City Grand Mosque.
AFP spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr., said it took the government troops almost a month to retake the Grand Mosque or the Islamic Center from the terrorist Maute group.
“We did not conduct a frontal attack because we wanted to preserve the Grand Mosque, owing to the promise of our Commander-in-Chief, the President, and our Chief of Staff, who strongly provided guidance not to destroy any place of worship even if international protocols would allow us to do that,” Padilla said during the regular Mindanao Hour briefing in Malacañang.
“We met resistance in the surrounding areas over that less than a month of time, until we got to that point when we were able to assault the Grand Mosque,” Padilla explained.
The AFP official said the government forces are now clearing the Grand Mosque of unexploded ordnance and IEDs.
“The Grand Mosque is located in the central area of Marawi. It is the most significant landmark because it being the biggest mosque in the area,” Padilla said.
“So having it under the hands of government provides us the impetus to symbolically say that nakuha na natin ‘yung sentro mismo ng bayan,” he said.
Padilla explained that it took a month to retake the Grand Mosque to ensure that it will not be destroyed during the conflict, and that there would be a place of worship for Muslim brothers and sisters to go to when the conflict is over.
Aside from the Grand Mosque, Padilla said government troops were able to retake the Marawi City Police Station.
With these developments, Padilla said the battle area has been reduced to about one-half square kilometer grid.
Padilla meanwhile said President Rodrigo Duterte was able to visit Marawi City anew last Thursday afternoon.
“Ito po ay pagnanais ng ating Commander-in-Chief na makapiling ang mga tropang direktang nakikipaglaban sa mga kalaban natin,” Padilla said.
“Siya po ay nagpaabot ng kanyang pasasalamat sa ating mga kasamahan at ganun din, nag-abot po ng ilang tulong at pampa-high morale na mga bagay tulad ng relo at iba pang mgagrocery items na kinakailangan po nila,” he said.
In the same briefing, meanwhile, Office of Civil Defense (OCD) Assistant Secretary Kristoffer James Purisima said there is no humanitarian crisis in Marawi.
“We do not think it’s a humanitarian crisis because we’re addressing the situation that’s happening. We know what’s happening on the ground and we’re addressing all the needs of our IDPs, whether they be in our evacuation centers or home-based,” Purisima said.
Purisima said that Task Force Bangon Marawi has already started its post-conflict needs assessment, which is part of the comprehensive rehabilitation and recovery program.
“Kung wala tayong ginagawa on the ground, maaring sabihin na may krisis. Pero, I differ on that because I know that we’re doing everything we can on the ground,” Purisima said.
“This is an inter-agency effort. Hindi lamang ito Office of Civil Defense, hindi lamang ito DND or DSWD or AFP. Lahat ito ng mga ahensya na kasama sa Task Force Bangon Marawi, 23 agencies and growing,” he added.
“So makakaasa ho ang ating mga kababayan na hindi natin pinapabayaan ang sitwasyon sa ground and this is not a humanitarian crisis,” Purisima said.
Meanwhile, Purisima said the proposal to distribute chickens to the evacuees would need the approval of the Task Force.
“Pag-aaralan natin ‘to. Dahil syempre kailangan ‘yung welfare ng ating mga evacuees, ating mga IDPs ang nakasalalay dito… at syempre hindi tayo gagawa ng isang plano o isang programa na makakasakit lamang sa ating mga IDPs,” he said.
Palace fetes Filipino athletes win in SEA Games
In the same briefing, Presidential Communications Office Director Omar Romero congratulated Filipino athletes who have won in the ongoing Southeast Asian Games.
“The Philippines now has 15 gold, 18 silver, and 31 bronze medals, as of August 25, this morning at 1 am,” Romero said.
Gold medals were bagged by Eumir Marcial for Boxing Middleweight – 75 kilograms event; Marvin John Tupas for Boxing Lightweight – 81 kilograms event; Curte Robert Guarin, Emmanuel Portacio, Leoncio Carreon Jr., and Ronald Lising for Lawn Bowls-Men’s Four event; Trenten Anthony Beram for the Athletics Men’s 400 meters; and the Philippine Men’s Ice Hockey Team.
Silver medals were meanwhile won by Mario Fernandez for Boxing Men’s Bantamweight – 56 kilograms event; Marisa Baronda, Nancy Toyco, Nenita Tabiano, and Sharon Hauters for the Lawn Bowls – Women’s Four event; and Yvonne Alyssa Dalida and Jemyca Aribado for the Squash Women’s Jumbo Doubles.
Filipino athletes who won bronze medals were Lois Kaye Go for the Golf Women’s Individual Stroke Play; Amparo Teresa Acuña for Shooting Women’s 50-meter Rifle Prone; Ian Clark Bautista and Charly Suarez for Boxing Men’s Flyweight – 52 kilograms event and Light Welterweight – 64 kilograms event, respectively.
Also winning bronze medals were Janry Ubas for Men’s Athletics Long Jump; Warren Kiamco and Dennis Orcollo for Billiards & Snooker Pool 9 Ball Doubles; David William Pelino and Robert Andrew Garcia for Squash Men’s Jumbo Doubles; as well as Bowling Tenpin Team of Five, and the Women’s Karate Kumite Team.