President says he would lift martial law in Mindanao once Marawi is cleared
MARAWI CITY– President Rodrigo Duterte visited the war-torn city late Thursday afternoon and said state forces were winding up offensives in the conflict zone, where the battle against Islamic State-linked terrorists have been going on for four months.
Duterte made his fifth visit to the city just as protesters mounted mass actions in Metro Manila on the National Day of Protest, calling for "responsible" governance and respect for human rights under his administration.
The President arrived just before 6 p.m. here after traveling by land from the headquarters of the Philippine Army's 2nd Mechanized Brigade in Iligan City.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Eduardo Año and other top military officials accompanied the President.
During his visit, the President laid down steps that the government intends to take once the crisis is fully resolved.
When the conflict is over, there would be no celebration, he said. The military would instead quietly pack up and leave.
A thanksgiving mass is also planned to be held in honor of government troops who laid down their lives to liberate the city.
The President also made the assurance that he would lift martial rule in Mindanao - which he had declared on May 23, the day the clashes erupted, and which Congress then extended on his request until December- once the city has been cleared, especially of improvised explosive devices.
More than 800 people have died and hundreds of thousands have been displaced by the conflict, which has left much of the once bustling urban center in ruins.
Duterte chose to go to the war-torn city as various militant and civil society organizations held protests to denounce deaths under his drug war, particularly recent teen killings in questionable police operations.
He had earlier vowed justice for the killings and said he would not condone police abuses.
In a speech, the President remained undeterred by criticism and said his drug war would continue.
“The war on drugs will continue. There will be no let up,” Duterte said.
The President argued that “just because there were one, two, three, four or a dozen unnecessary deaths,” his campaign against illegal drugs would stop. -- with a report from Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News