THE government expects to retrieve more than 100 bodies of civilians from the main battle area in Marawi City, an assemblyman from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said Sunday.
In an interview over radio dzBB, ARMM Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong said there were 61 people still missing.
“Actually, we’re expecting the worst,” he added. “We are not causing any panic here or alarm, but we’re getting ready. We are expecting the worst.”
Adiong said the government had buried about 100 people at the Maqbara Public Cemetery, and was expecting to find the bodies of 600 to 700 members of the Maute terrorist group that had overrun the city on May 23.
“These are the Maute fighters alone but they’re also looking at the possibility of finding civillians there,” Adiong said.
The military declared an end to the five-month siege in Marawi City on Oct. 23, after government troops wiped out the remaining terrorist force in the city.
Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., Task Force Ranao deputy commander, said the fighting took the lives of 920 Maute members and 165 government soldiers.
On Sunday, newly appointed Armed Forces chief Lt. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero ordered the troops to eradicate all threats to peace and security.
In a statement Sunday, AFP Public Affairs Office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said this was in line with President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to eliminate lawless elements following the liberation of Marawi City from the hands of the Maute group.
Guerrero, who is concurrently Eastern Mindanao commander, was tasked to dismantle New People’s Army bands that are concentrated in the Davao Region, Caraga Region, and Northern Mindanao.
At the same time, he was also tasked to curb the spread of violence and terrorism in his area of responsibility, especially during the Marawi City siege.
“The priorities in the area of peace and security are clear: Finish the remaining terrorist groups, neutralize the communist insurgency threat, and support law enforcement against lawless armed groups,” Guerrero said in his assumption speech during the AFP change of command ceremonies on Thursday.
He also vowed to continue reform programs in the military, improve its capability, and revisit war-fighting doctrines in light of new “battlefield environments.”
“We will aggressively implement our modernization program and fast-track the procurement of advanced weapons systems that provide cost-effective and precise target engagement, long-range and high-endurance unmanned systems, and modern air and naval platforms,” he said.
The new AFP chief also seeks to “refine internal processes including improvements on services and transparency and accountability of transactions.”
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