'Marawi siege was really a prolonged war'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 03 2018 04:11 PM

A soldier walks past a shrub of Poinsettia in bloom at the main battle area (MBA) in Marawi City on December 2, 2017. The area has now been renamed the most affected area (MAA) after the end of hostilities in the five-month war that devastated the city. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA- The biggest security crisis to hit the Philippines in 2017 was "really a prolonged war," Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong said on Tuesday.

Looking back at the bloodshed that claimed over 1,000 lives and forced hundreds of thousands to flee, Adiong said no one thought that the siege would even last for a week, much more 5 months.

"It was really a prolonged war. Nobody was expecting that it would drag on for 5 months...Nobody really expected that the war would go on for even about a week much less 2 weeks," he said on ANC's Beyond Politics.

On May 23, 2017, Islamic State-inspired extremists laid siege on Marawi City prompting President Rodrigo Duterte to place the entire island of Mindanao under martial law.

The war dragged on for months until government troops killed the terrorists' leaders in October.

Adiong said it was only later on in the crisis when local officials began to realize how radical ideologies have been quietly spreading across Mindanao, and lamented how little has been done to counter such narratives.

"They (terrorists) have been using experiences of inequality as a common experience among different Muslim countries across the world [in recruiting]," he said, noting that the Maute group had been searching for members as early as 2011.

Adiong conceded that the war was really "well-planned and well-organized" for a local terrorist group such as the Maute.

Asked on his views on what went wrong in terms of security, Adiong said it is better to focus instead on rebuilding Marawi City rather than point fingers.

"We cannot dwell on the past. Let's move forward. This is a big lesson for our country," he said.

"Our focus right now is moving forward. It has already happened, the destruction is already there. We really have to channel our energy towards the rehabilitation of Marawi," he added.