Malacañang on Wednesday, June 14, called on all Filipinos to unite as a nation amid the ongoing hostilities in Marawi led by the Maute group, which have left scores dead, including government troops and innocent civilians.
“The Philippines needs to make a united stand and that it needs to understand this is no longer intramurals within ourselves but we need to be united against a common enemy,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said during the regular Mindanao Hour press briefing in Malacañang.
Abella also issued an appeal to politicians to stop politicking but instead help the government in finding ways to restore peace in Lanao del Sur.
“Our sovereignty is being confronted and I believe it’s time to set aside petty politics and the things that separate us. It’s really high time and I believe it’s a call to the Filipino nation to be able to stand together as one,” the Palace official added.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla Jr., who joined Abella at the press briefing, said the fighting in Marawi City is no longer a simple matter but a “fight between good and evil.”
“We must all work together, issue out a united and collective public condemnation of all these things that are happening in Marawi now and join hands together in resisting the entry of this evil force because this is no longer a simple matter. It’s already a fight between good and evil and you must all realize that by now,” he said referring to the Maute group, who has laid siege to Marawi City.
Padilla said the public should not fear the local terrorist groups but instead be vigilant to prevent the spillover of atrocities in other parts of the country.
The AFP official said even the youth must have a better grasp of the country’s security concerns and should gain training for military service.
Meanwhile, Padilla said the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia will launch on June 19 in Indonesia joint sea patrols to bolster security.
Initially, the joint patrols were conceptualized to address the kidnapping issues but with the ongoing conflict in Marawi City, there are concerns that Islamic militants could cross the border to sow chaos in the neighboring countries, according to Padilla.
“But now, there’s a bigger issue on the threat coming from the Daesh. So that becomes more relevant. We have these trilateral patrols,” he said.
Padilla also thanked the media for helping honor the soldiers who lost their lives fighting to liberate Marawi City. He also asked the public to always remember those who perished and support government troops still battling militants in Mindanao.
Malacañang also welcomed a proposal by Congress to pass a law aimed at rehabilitating Marawi City immediately after the city is cleared of Islamic militants.
The Maute group occupied the city more than three weeks ago and caused so much devastation and also displaced thousands of people.
Congress has proposed Tindeg Marawi Bill, in anticipation of the rehabilitation of Marawi City.
The bill allocates a P10-billion supplemental budget to rebuild Marawi City through House Bill 5874 or the Tindeg Marawi Bill.
“It is therefore a very welcome development and this complements an executive order for Bangon Marawi which is awaiting PRRD’s approval,” Abella said.
Also, Abella said AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año reiterated his continuing guidance to put premium on civilian lives, protect civilian properties and observe strict discipline in the conduct of military operations.
“The primordial concern remains that our forces are to continue to execute military operations to ensure we save lives through judicious military action,” Abella said.
Abella also conveyed AFP’s clarificatory note saying, “The AFP respects places of worship and other cultural and heritage sites. As such, the Chief of Staff of AFP gives his assurance that the AFP will do everything possible to protect and preserve these places.”
He also asked the country’s religious leaders of every faith to call upon all parties to respect these places of worship.
Padilla also gave assurance that the military will not bomb any mosques.
As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, Abella said the clearing operations continue adding only four barangays are under the control of the terrorists out of 96 barangays in the city.
Troops continue to gain foothold into the inner areas of Marawi City and enemy resistance also continue to dwindle, he said.
The use of civilians as human shields and madrasahs and mosques as staging areas and safe havens compound military operations, he added.###PND