Duterte declares warn-torn city freed from clutches of terrorists, but hunt for slain leaders’ possible
“MARAWI City is liberated,” President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday declared after more than four months
since Islamic State-inspired terrorists made a bid to seize the Muslim urban center.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby declare Marawi City liberated from the terrorist influence that
marks the beginning of rehabilitation of the city," Duterte said.
The Philippine flag was raised and soldiers in the strife-torn city cheered “Mabuhay!” (long
live) as Duterte declared the liberation of the city, which was gripped by a bloody conflict that has
left more than 1,000 dead and displaced hundreds of thousands.
The President’s announcement came a day after terror leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute
were killed in a military assault.
But Armed Forces Spokesperson Major General Restituo Padilla Jr. said the killing of the two
terrorist leaders “does not signal the end of the hostilities" because as many as 30 terrorists,
including 6 to 8 foreigners, remain holed up in the city with some 20 hostages.
“Our troops have remained in the battle area continuing to pursue the armed elements and
seeking to rescue the remaining hostages in about two hectares of space that remains to be the battle
area,” Padilla added.
Padilla said Marawi residents would not be allowed to immediately return to their homes to
avoid deaths from improvised bombs scattered in some parts of the city.
“After all, having survived several months in evacuation centers, it would be [ironic] if upon
the return of residents in Marawi, they would suffer because of an IED that was left,” Padilla said.
Joint Task Group Ranao deputy commander Colonel Romeo Brawner said there was still an ongoing
operation to rescue the remaining hostages of the Maute group.
"This is just a reminder, a declaration na tapos na ang Marawi siege and we can move on forward
to the recovery and rehabilitation efforts," Brawner said.
He said that with Duterte's declaration, the joint task force will move to the next phase of
clearing the entire city, particularly the battle zone, of the Maute group's bombs and unexploded
After this, he said the Department of Health will "sanitize" the city before the actual
rehabilitation of the war-torn city.
He said part of the clearing operation of the government troops is to recover the cadavers
within the battle zone.
Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella appealed to the remaining terrorists to
surrender and “return to the road of peace.”
“With terrorist leaders gone, we call on all fighters to cease further resistance and violence
and return to the road of peace,” Abella said.
“This is also the call of our Muslim leaders, our imams, ARMM, MNLF, MILF chiefs, and the
leaders of Muslim nations and this is the plea of your families, friends, and communities. Let us
restore peace and rebuild our land,” Abella added.
The conflict, the biggest security challenge that state forces had to face in years, broke out
on May 23 and prompted President Duterte to place the entire Mindanao under martial law.
Several countries and organizations have provided aid for state troops and rebuilding efforts
in the battered city, among them the United States, China, Australia, Japan and the European Union.