MANILA — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Wednesday expressed confidence that clashes between government troops and the Maute terrorist group in Marawi City could be over before September ends.
In an ambush interview on the sidelines of a committee hearing at the House of Representatives, Lorenzana said based on estimates, the Maute group is occupying only about five hectares in the conflict-torn area operating with a dwindled number of fewer than 100 members.
“Ang sabi ng ating mga commanders sa ground is tapusin na yan bago matapos ang buwan. (The ground commanders told me that (the Marawi conflict) could end before the month ends.) So they have three days to do the job,” Lorenzana said, adding it is up to them “the responsibility of fulfilling their promise.”
“I am very confident of the abilities of our soldiers.”
Lorenzana, who is also martial law administrator, said the government will have to assess the situation in the whole of Mindanao after the Marawi conflict ends.
“Tapusin muna namin yung problema sa Marawi (We will finish the problem in Marawi first) and we will assess the situation in the whole of Mindanao and it will take us a couple of weeks,” Lorenzana said.
He said the recommendation on whether to lift or continue the martial law in Mindanao will be made sometime in October.
The Defense chief said he will also consider the “recommendation of the people in Marawi and in Lanao” if martial law should still be implemented while the city is being rehabilitated.
“Ngayon, kung sabihin nila na pwede na itong lugar namin na walang martial law (Now, if they say that their place could do without martial law) we will also consider that. But the final determination whether to continue martial law or not rests with the President. Decision niya yun (That’s his decision),” he said.