MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said he wants to visit Marawi City on Friday, June 30, which happens to be the day he will mark first year in office.
“Gusto kong pumunta ng Marawi. I think I’ll go there on Friday,” Duterte said in a speech during the celebration of the 120th founding anniversary of the Presidential Security Group.
Duterte said he does not mind if something bad happens to him in the besieged city, as he wants to show support to government troops battling Islamist militants who captured parts of the city over a month ago.
“It’s about too late in the day to be hesitating to go there. I will go there and… Eh ‘di kung walang swerte, eh ‘di uwi ako dito cargo rin, C-130. Tutal may Bise Presidente naman, ano ba naman problema natin?”
After Duterte announced his wish to visit Marawi, a Palace official clarified to reporters that the President's schedule for Friday does not include any visit to the besieged city yet.
Duterte has vowed to revive the glory of Marawi, an economic and cultural hub in Muslim Mindanao, saying it pains him to see the once vibrant city in ruins and soldiers killed.
The President also blasted the ideology of the Islamist militants who were inspired by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
“Itong ideology ng ISIS is really an ideology of brutality and cruelty. Walang ginawa kung hindi magpatay pati magsira,” he said.
Duterte placed the entire Mindanao under martial law on May 23, the same day the siege erupted.
The clashes were allegedly triggered by the government troops’ attempt to arrest senior Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, whose group was apparently supporting the Maute group led by Omar and Abdullah.
The Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups, backed by local and foreign fighters, laid siege to the city in an apparent bid to establish an Islamic State province in the Philippines.
Nearly 400 people, mostly suspected terrorists, have been killed.
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.