'Bato': Marawi conflict may be finished within the month

Maan Macapagal, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 12 2017 04:23 PM

MANILA - Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa believes state troops can suppress terrorists in Marawi City in 10 to 15 days, as President Rodrigo Duterte foresees. 

Dela Rosa said the commander-in-chief always bases his assessment on sound intelligence information, adding that Duterte is briefed by people on the ground every now and then.

"That's a very good assessment coming from the President," the PNP chief said Wednesday.

Speaking at the Philippine Stock Exchange on Tuesday, Duterte had said long-drawn firefights between state forces and terrorists in Marawi City may be finished in 15 days.

But Dela Rosa said police are not discounting the possibility of another attack by the Maute group in other parts of Mindanao, citing information from a video seized from the terrorists.

"'Yun nga, sinabi nga ng mga Maute sa plano na nakuha sa video, na 'pag hindi nila makuha itong… Aside from Marawi, puwede nila tirahin 'yung IIigan. So 'yung ibang cities ng Mindanao," he said.

Dela Rosa said government takes all threats seriously, especially given what the Maute terrorists were able to do in the once bustling city of Marawi.

"So we assessed that all the major cities in Mindanao are under threat. Under threat sa kanilang mga plano. Mahirap na 'yung i-disregard natin," he said.

Dela Rosa said the police, military and local government units in Mindanao were already prepared for a possible spillover of the Marawi conflict. 

"Pati mamamayan, 'yung community mismo. They are very much aware na since they are in Mindanao, puwedeng mag-spillover ang problema dun sa kanilang lugar," he said.

"We better not take chances. Maniguro tayo. Kaya nga nai-declare na itong martial law... Gamitin na natin ang martial law para makasiguro tayo sa safety and security ng Mindanao," he added.

The Islamic State-linked terror group had begun its siege on the city on May 23, prompting the President to declare martial law over all of Mindanao. 

In justifying his declaration to Congress, Duterte said the terrorists were planning to establish an Islamic State province in Mindanao.

More than 500 people have been killed since the clashes began, while roughly 300,000 residents have been driven out of Marawi City and nearby areas.