MANILA — Lawmakers in the House of Representatives on Monday welcomed Defense Secretary Lorenzana’s confirmation of the deaths of top terrorist leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute in Marawi City.
Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo commended the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for its “noteworthy achievement” in flushing out the two remaining (IS)-inspired terror leaders in the besieged city.
Castelo also acknowledged President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao as essential in scuttling the IS’ plan to install a caliphate in Marawi.
“The determination of President Duterte along with his resolute actions primarily in imposing martial law on the entire Mindanao region at the start of the IS incursion cut short the ambitions of the dreaded fundamentalist group to relocate to Southeast Asia from the Middle East, where its strongholds were practically wiped out by the Western military coalition led by the United States,” Castelo said.
Castelo said this milestone marks the military’s effort to put an end to the five-month-long armed conflict and restore normalcy in the peace and order situation of the land.
“Freeing Marawi City from the clutches of the terror groups will also allow the Duterte administration to start the long-delayed rehabilitation program for the devastated city,” he added.
For his part, Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon said the neutralization of Hapilon and Maute is a significant blow dealt by the AFP to the terrorist groups.
“In eliminating the top leaders, the strategic decision making and direction of the terrorists will be impaired, giving the AFP an advantage in going after the rest of the group which may experience a setback due to the leadership vacuum. The AFP should exploit this opportunity,” Biazon said.
Biazon advised the government to prepare the return of the troops, paying particular attention to their mental health.
“The trauma and stress of the protracted battle the likes of which has never been seen before by our soldiers has surely taken its toll on those who fought against the terrorists,” Biazon said.
“Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has surely afflicted many of our soldiers and they need the appropriate mental health care as they return from the conflict. Beyond giving them a hero’s welcome, we must ensure that they return to regular life with a normal state of mind,” he added.
Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, meanwhile, said the death of Maute and Hapilon is a clear victory for the military against terrorism.
Alejano expressed hope that the martial rule imposed in Southern Philippines would be lifted “sooner than later” and the rehabilitation of the besieged city be started at the “soonest possible time.”
“These are critical factors in restoring the normalcy in the area. Ang hangad po natin ay makabalik na ang ating mga kapatid na Maranao sa kanilang mga tahanan at makapagsimula ng bagong buhay,” Alejano said.
“The government should continue to support and equip our soldiers to lessen our casualties in battle. This is the time when we need all the support from our allies rather than isolate ourselves,” he added.
Fighting in Marawi City erupted when government forces tried to arrest Hapilon who was declared as the ’emir’ of the terror group ISIS in Southeast Asia last May 23.
This prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao. (PNA)