MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday said some of the female soldiers who fought Islamic State-inspired terrorists in Marawi City are now in Hong Kong enjoying their well-deserved vacation.
“Nandoon na sila. Ano ka man. Nauna pa sa amin… Nag-asawa na nga ang iba pagbalik eh,” Duterte told reporters in Davao City in a news conference upon his arrival from Japan.
Duterte had promised to give all-expense paid Hong Kong trips to soldiers who risked life and limb to eliminate members of terrorist groups Abu Sayyaf and Maute.
According to the President, low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific offered to give free flights to the soldiers.
"Somebody, but sabihin ko na lang, and it should really be made public," he said. "It was Cebu Pacific who answered for… Nung nalaman niya na… na sabi ko, sabi niya, 'Sige, ako na lang ang --- iyo na lang ang baon pati hotel.'"
The government declared an end to the hostilities in Marawi last October 23, when leaders of the IS-linked fighters were killed in a fierce final stand.
The fighting has taken a heavy toll, reducing buildings to skeletons of mangled steel and rubble, and killing more than 1,100 people, mostly Islamist extremists.
Some 6,500 families are due to return this week in a phased repatriation, a fraction of the 77,000 that fled to evacuation camps or nearby towns.
Many face a lengthy wait for vast swathes of Marawi to be rebuilt.