MANILA (UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday vowed to bring besieged Marawi City back to its old glory as weeks of clashes between state forces and Islamic State-linked terrorists have left parts of the once bustling Lanao del Sur capital in ruins.
"Sabi ko tatapusin ko talaga ito but one thing I will promise you: I will see to it that Marawi will rise as a prosperous city again," Duterte said in Malacañang during the Eid al-Fitr celebration.
In his first public speech in six days, the President vowed to release P20 billion for the rehabilitation of Marawi, a cultural and trade center located at the heart of mainland Mindanao.
"I need a big amount because I will rebuild Marawi. Kailangan ko talaga itayo ang Marawi kasi, kung hindi, I will remain forever a kontrabida," said Duterte, the first Mindanaoan president.
(I need a big amount because I will rebuild Marawi. I badly need it because if I fail to rebuild Marawi, I will remain a villain forever.)
Duterte said it pains him to see Marawi crumble in the hands of extremists who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which he said was trying to bring an unacceptable ideology into the country.
"Ang masakit sa akin ay pumasok ang fractured ideology na hindi naman malaman mismo kung ano ang ginagawa nila. All they want is to kill and destroy," he said.
(What's hurtful for me is that a fractured ideology has entered our country, and it is not clear what they want. All they want is to kill and destroy.)
"How can we improve on our lives kung may papasok na ganon na ideolohiya na walang ginagawa kundi pumatay?"
(How can we improve on our lives if an ideology like this enters our country which knows nothing but killing?)
The siege in Marawi City began a month ago, when the Maute group, led by brothers Omar and Abdullah, captured parts of the city in an alleged bid to establish an ISIS province in Mindanao. Over 300, mostly suspected terrorists, have perished.
The clashes erupted after government troops attempted to arrest Abu Sayyaf senior leader Isnilon Hapilon in the city on May 23. Hapilon, known as ISIS' anointed leader in Southeast Asia, evaded arrest and has reportedly left the city after weeks of fierce clashes.
The conflict prompted Duterte to put the entire Mindanao under martial law, a declaration facing opposition at the Supreme Court.
In his speech, Duterte said he knew the extent of the problem when he was in Russia for an official visit, a trip that was cut short by the crisis.
“I already had the complete picture and I knew that would be a long fight. But kung tanungin ninyo ako kung maligaya ako, anak ng… I am also bleeding like you,” he said.
The emergence of groups pledging allegiance to the ISIS has been considered as the biggest security problem to face the year-old Duterte administration.
The rise of pro-ISIS groups in the country has raised alarm in Washington and the Philippines’ neighbors in the region, which fear that the notorious terror group was seeking to establish a new front in Asia amid its successive losses in Iraq and Syria.
While the military has expressed confidence that the crisis will be over soon, security experts worry that the Marawi attack was just part of a bigger plan of ISIS in Southeast Asia.