PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has confirmed that he is pushing through with his visit to Marawi despite the ambush Tuesday of his elite Presidential Security Group (PSG) advance party.
Defying advice for him to put off his trip today, Duterte said he is flying to Marawi city to visit soldiers who were wounded during their operation against the Maute group in Butig, Lanao Del Sur.
Duterte’s 50-member advance party was on their way to the Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade headquarters when an improvised explosive device (IED) hit their convoy in Barangay Matampay at 10:30 a.m. Unidentified suspects then opened fire on their party.
The Palace said seven members of the Presidential Security Group and two government soldiers were injured.
Duterte said he was advised to cancel the trip, but he said he opted to push through with it.
“Iyung advance party ko na belonging to the presidential security group na ambush pa kanina. Tinamaan ng IED,” Duterte said.
“But I’m going there. The advice was to postpone, but I said no, and if possible, let’s take the same route. Maybe we can have a little gunfight here, gunfight there, exercise, baka. Kung di ako lulusot, that’s why we have Vice President Leni Robredo. You can have a gentle president also in exchange for the discourteous mouth.”
The Philippine Army’s 103rd Brigade said the attack may have been a diversionary tactic of Maute terrorists who are currently battling state troops in the neighboring town of Butig.
Duterte earlier announced that he will go to Lanao del Sur to show support for the troops.
Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Restituto Padilla said the suspects may not have known that the unmarked convoy they ambushed belongs to the government.
The attack could have been meant to intimidate civilians and block reinforcements from reaching Marawi, Padilla said.
The President also said he will visit the injured PSG soldiers.
Duterte said he is resolved to pursue long lasting and genuine peace in Mindanao.
PSG spokesman Lt. Col. Michael Aquino said he cannot say if the attack specifically targeted Duterte or was a result of the current military campaign against the Maute Group in Lanao del Sur.
Likewise, Aquino said he could not say if the incident will affect Duterte’s trip to Marawi, but stressed that the PSG “is well-trained and prepared to ensure the safety of the President.”
However, it was not disclosed when Duterte is expected to go to Marawi City. EMontano