MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday said he does not believe allegations that some soldiers who fought Islamic State-inspired terrorists in Marawi City looted homes amid the conflict.
In a speech at the Army General Hospital in Taguig City, Duterte tagged the allegations against the soldiers as mere “intrigues”.
“Iyung mga imbestigasyon na nagnakaw daw sa Marawi, 'di ako naniwala d'yan. Nandoon ako… ‘di ako naniniwala ang sundalo ko magnanakaw,” Duterte said.
“Saan mo ilagay yan? Pag-uwi niyo puro kayo nakasakay sa trak.”
The President added it would be normal for soldiers to use some items in abandoned homes to improve their situation while fighting extremists.
The military earlier said six soldiers are under investigation for reportedly looting in Marawi City.
Col. Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of Joint Task Group Ranao, said in October that one official and 5 personnel of the Philippine Army were being investigated for looting in the war-torn city, where residents had to flee their homes during the five-month conflict.
Brawner said the looting allegedly happened during the first few weeks of the siege. The commanding officer of the soldiers involved immediately ordered his men to return the allegedly stolen items, Brawner said.
Following relentless bombings and ground assaults by government troops, the siege ended on Oct. 23, leaving at least 1,100 people dead, mostly terrorists, and some 350,000 residents displaced from the city and nearby towns.
The conflict also left the city, considered one of the centers of Islamic faith in Mindanao, in ruins.
Some residents have since been allowed to return to their homes.
The Marawi siege, the Philippines’ biggest security problem in years, has sparked concerns that the Islamic State is now on building a new base in Southeast Asia as its fighters suffered heavy losses in Syria and Iraq.
Duterte visited the Army General Hospital to confer on 26 soldiers the Order of Lapu-Lapu. Twenty of the soldiers were wounded during the Marawi siege while the rest were wounded in clashes with rebel fighters from the New People’s Army and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
Established by Duterte in April, the Order of Lapu-Lapu is an award given to officials and personnel of government as well as private individuals “in recognition of their invaluable or extraordinary service in relation to a campaign or advocacy of the President.”