MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday gave troops in Butuan City a pep talk, urging them not to lose heart as offensives against Islamic State-linked terror groups in Marawi City continued amid a rising death toll.
"I love you all. Mahal ko kayong lahat. Nasasaktan ako kapag mayroong nadidisgrasya," Duterte told troops in Butuan City.
It was the second in his back-to-back engagement after five days of absence from the public eye since taking a break following an exhausting camp tour last week.
The commander-in-chief reiterated his commitment to buy brand new air assets and "war-grade" weapons for the military to ensure that government forces would not be at a disadvantage against the terrorists, apparently backed by foreign fighters.
"Binibigay ko sa inyo lahat talaga pati yung modern machines... Gamitin ninyo 'yung eroplano ko, 'yung presidential planes to ferry the wounded," he said.
Duterte also told soldiers not to worry about the future of their families as the government would pour in funds to put up cooperatives for uniformed men's spouses, and an educational program for their children.
"Just be a clever soldier. Gamitin mo na lahat ng instincts mo to survive so you will have the time to see you grandchildren," he said.
The president also reminded soldiers not to fear death and leave everything "up to God."
Since the battle in Marawi City began on May 23, the government has lost 59 soldiers. They were among at least 300 people killed, including 225 militants and 26 civilians.
Also on Saturday, at least 400 more soldiers from Western Visayas were deployed to Marawi City as troops continued to scour the inner enclaves of the Islamic City to flush out the terrorists.