MANILA - Newly installed Philippine Army chief Major General Rolando Bautista wants to return to Marawi City to finish the fight against Islamic State-inspired Maute terrorists.
Bautista, named to replace Lieutenant General Glorioso Miranda as Army Commanding General, said the military has yet to verify reports that terror leaders Omar Maute and Isnilon Hapilon have been killed in the battle, which has been going on for nearly five months and has left more than 800 dead.
The former chief of Joint Task Force Marawi also expressed hopes that the conflict-stricken city would be liberated before the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Leaders Meeting in November, when heads of state are expected to gather in the country.
In his speech during Thursday's change of command ceremony, Bautista called on soldiers to improve themselves and further serve the country.
"In keeping with the Army's objectives, in accordance [with] the Army transformation road map, our officers, and each and every soldier, should always try to find ways to better themselves and work cohesively in the service of the people, through education, training programs, innovation, research and development, and people-centered activities," he said.
He said he would "look into programs that alleviate the worries of our soldiers, which are no different from [that of] other Filipinos: shelter, education, health care and livelihood for their families."
Bautista said he also plans to tap army reservists, Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) cadets, and citizen army trainees to help government in achieving its security goals.
"We must work toward encouraging a new role for our reservists, who play a part in helping us attain our security goals in Marawi. Reservists, ROTC cadets, and even CAT trainees in high schools may all be put to good use for the benefit of our national security goals," he said.
Bautista, also former head of the Presidential Security Group, will take over Miranda's post once he retires on Sunday.
Bautista is a member of the Philippine Military Academy's Sandiwa Class of 1985. - with a report from Dexter Ganibe, ABS-CBN News