MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said the public will see less of him in gatherings until the government resolves the Marawi crisis, which is now raging for over a month.
Duterte said he has decided to make more rounds in military camps to raise the morale of government troops, some of whom are now battling Islamist militants in Marawi.
“You’ll see less of me until the Marawi incident is over. Nandoon ako sa mga kampo everyday, lumilipad ako sa mga kampo just to raise the morale [of the troops],” Duterte said during the 140th founding anniversary of Philippine Chinese Charitable Association, Inc.
He placed the entire Mindanao under martial law after Islamist militants led by the Maute group laid siege to Marawi City in an alleged bid to establish an Islamic State province (wilayat) in the Philippines.
Nearly 400 people, mostly suspected terrorists, have been killed since the clashes erupted last May 23, but the military fears the civilian death toll could increase significantly as more bodies have yet to be recovered and killings verified.
“Itong ISIS, walang redeeming factor ‘to… All they do is just to kill and destroy and killing in a most brutal way,” Duterte said.
“They enjoy decapitating people in front of cameras. They have to be dealt with, with the same ferocity but not the brutality.”
Duterte had been out of public eye for nearly two weeks this month, triggering speculations about his health. He also drew criticism for his absence despite the ongoing crisis in Marawi.
The President has dismissed the rumors about his health, saying he took his long breaks to rest.
In a speech earlier in the day, Duterte also said he spent a portion of his long breaks visiting military camps.
“I cannot just sit on my a** diyan sa opisina ko na hirap ‘yung tao doon. And for the many weeks that you did not see me, alam ninyo na pumupunta ako ng brigade, ng kampo, lahat pinuntahan ko, almost all divisions,” Duterte said in a speech during the 120th founding anniversary of the Presidential Security Group.
“I just wanted to make sure that the morale of the troops are high.”
Duterte broke his 6-day hiatus on Tuesday, hosting Muslim leaders in a celebration of Eid al-Fitr in Malacañang.
Prior to yesterday’s event, Duterte last appeared in public on June 20, when he visited evacuees in Iligan City and wounded soldiers in Cagayan de Oro.
Earlier this month, Duterte also had a five-day absence which started on June 12.
The President missed the Independence Day rites in Rizal Park then appeared in public again on June 17, when he visited the Philippine Army 4th Infantry Division in Butuan City. At the time, he told reporters that the state of his health was “immaterial.”