It will take years – perhaps 70, according to one estimate – to restore Marawi City to what it used to be. The destruction is so widespread, it looks like the pictures of Manila after its liberation in World War II, with not one building left unscathed in the main battle zone where the Maute rebels and their Islamic State cohorts made their last stand. Private buildings are filled with bullet and shell holes. The domes of the mosques rise above the destroyed buildings but they too are broken and battered.
Behind all this physical destruction are the following statistics on the human toll: About 920 terrorists killed, along with 165 soldiers and policemen and 47 civilians; 1,700 troopers wounded; 1,780 hostages rescued; and hundreds of thousands of Marawi residents displaced.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has won praise from many quarters for the way its men handled their mission, with all due concern for the safety and interests of the local populace, holding back on assaults that might endanger hostages. Last August, President Duterte, concerned that the war had taken too long, said he was leaving it to the AFP to decide if they should now launch an all-out attack, including the bombing of all buildings, including mosques, the rebels were using as defensive bulwarks. But the AFP leadership and field commanders stayed on with the policy of restraint, to fight but with due concern for what the people of Marawi hold dear, including their places of worship.
When finally the fighting ended last week and the troops started leaving Marawi City, grateful residents went out into the streets to cheer and thank the men returning to their camp in Cagayan de Oro City.
The AFP has truly done well in Marawi and President Duterte has lauded the leadership of Gen. Eduardo Año, its chief of staff. “The liberation of Marawi was the crowning jewel of General Año’s career,” he said. “His distinguished leadership resulted in a stronger AFP that did not just secure our nation, but also secured our people’s trust and confidence in the military establishment and the soldiers that it represents.”400.
General Año was appointed secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), but since the law calls for a one-year interval between his military service and his Cabinet position, the appointment will take effect only after a year. In the meantime, President Duterte asked General Año to serve as special assistant to the President or an undersecretary – whichever is legally tenable – and begin supervising the Philippine National Police (PNP), which is under the DILG.
The PNP has not fared well in the public’s assessment in recent months largely because of so many unexplained killings in the PNP campaign against drugs. President Duterte has pulled out the PNP from the anti-drugs campaign and assigned the Philippine Drug Enforcement Authority (PDEA) as lead enforcement group in the campaign.
This may be well be a big challenge facing General Año but we are confident that with what he was able to accomplish in the AFP, he will be able to carry out his new duties in the DILG, including supervision of the PNP, with great capability and competence.
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