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Duterte tasks Evasco to prioritize housing for poor

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by Genalyn Kabiling

The poor residents of Marawi City will be given priority in the planned rehabilitation of the war-torn area, President Duterte said amid his optimism the conflict will be “over soon.”

The President said he has designated Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. to prepare the rebuilding plan for Marawi, initially the housing assistance for poor families displaced by the conflict.

“I pray that there will be a short period of war activity and we expect it to be over soon. We are ready – ang gobyerno (our government), ang ating (our) Republic, to extend assistance,” Duterte said in a press conference during a military camp visit in Cagayan de Oro City last Sunday.

‘I AM A FILIPINO SOLDIER’ – Pledging to ‘live and die in true Filipino tradition of valor and honor, duty and loyalty,’ these soldiers take their oath at a flag-raising ceremony yesterday, Independence Day, at the Lanao del Sur provincial capitol in Marawi City. (AFP/Noel Celis | Manila Bulletin)

“Sabi ko kay Jun, when I was mayor of Davao City siya ‘yung sa housing ko, ‘prepare a rehab plan for Marawi.’ Unahin ko lang ‘yung mga bahay na ‘yung mga mahirap [I told Jun, who was in charge in housing when I was mayor of Davao City, to prepare a rehab plan for Marawi. I will prioritize the housing for the poor],” he added.

If there will be any rehabilitation funds left, Duterte said these resources will be channeled to the affluent families affected by the conflict.

“Kung wala na, pasensiya [If there is none, sorry],” he added.

The President was in Cagayan de Oro to visit the troops recently wounded in clashes with the Maute-led armed group in Marawi City. He gave them medals and financial assistance in a bid to boost their morale.

WHY MARTIAL LAW WAS DECLARED

In his remarks, the President said he was neither proud nor happy with the declaration of martial law in Mindanao but stressed he was forced to resort to such action to quell the rebellion and lawless violence.

Citing information from the military, Duterte revealed that it was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, who ordered terrorist attacks in the country.

The rebellion initiated by the Islamic militants was funded by illegal drug money, and not fueled by religion, according to the President.

“It has nothing to do with religion. I refused to believe that it is religion that fueled this war. It never has been and it is not now,” the President said during a press conference in Cagayan de Oro City last Sunday. “The government is the neutral party here,” Duterte said.

“I have to call the soldiers in because they were already occupying a definite territory and governance really has collapsed there in Marawi at saka (and) they were already flying the ISIS flag,” he said.

To the “fools” opposing the martial law proclamation, the President explained that he had to place entire Mindanao under martial law to prevent the spillover of attacks from Marawi. He also ordered the troops to crush the Islamic terrorists and drug traffickers wreaking havoc in the south, allowing them to conduct warrantless arrests and searches, among others.

He said his critics failed to understand that lawless elements “can run everywhere and anywhere, and they can always find sanctuary and solace.” He said they could escape to Lanao del Norte or Basilan amid the hot government pursuit.

“Kung kagaya ngayon nagtatakbuhan na, you have to pursue them and if they are ordered, they might just ought to be terrorist states, bomba dito, bomba doon,” he said. “You have to grapple between the naive or a pretended naïveté,” he said.

The conflict has claimed the lives of more than 100 enemies and government troops and displaced thousands of families.

Duterte has called on troops to remain steadfast in their mission to eliminate the security threats, assuring them of his full support.

NO TALKS WITH TERRORISTS

He reiterated that he would not negotiate with the terrorists, especially now that the government has incurred heavy losses. “Tapusin muna natin ‘yung giyera. Kung manalo kayo, usap tayo. Kung ako manalo, usap din tayo [Let’s finish this war. If you win, let’s talk. If I win, let’s talk],” he said.

In his speech before troops at a military camp in Cagayan de Oro City, the President expressed confidence the government will emerge triumphant in the war against the extremists in the south.

“Sa gobyerno tayo, hindi tayo matalo. Not in a million years na matumba tayo. Lalo na kagaya ninyo matatapang na Pilipino [We, the government, will not lose. Not in a million years will we be defeated especially since we have brave Filipinos],” he said.

The commander-in-chief even advised the soldiers not to be caught alive by the enemy or else risk a brutal death. “Kung mag-surrender ka, puputulin rin ulo mo [If you surrender, they will just behead you],” he said.

If there is no one else who will fight the enemy, the President said in jest he was ready to go to the frontline alongside Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

Before ending his speech before the troops, the President said he has raised P20 billion for a planned trust fund for the education of the soldiers’ children. He said he hopes to raise P30 billion more for the education fund.

As in previous military camp visits, Duterte also gave away his contact number to the troops so they can reach him if they have any problems.

MARAWI CIVILIANS HELPING MAUTE?

Meanwhile, Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano bared on Monday the possibility that the Maute Group members holed up in Marawi City could be receiving provisions from locals.

“I do not want to divulge specifics but certainly it’s a possibility. That is why the conflict area must be cordoned off from civilians,” said Alejano, who before winning a congressional seat in 2013, was a Marine captain.

NOT A DRY EYE — Volunteers wipe their tears as they remember the soldiers and civilians who were killed in the three-week-old conflict in Marawi City, during the flag-raising ceremony in Marawi City, Monday. (Reuters | Manila Bulletin)

NOT A DRY EYE — Volunteers wipe their tears as they remember the soldiers and civilians who were killed in the three-week-old conflict in Marawi City, during the flag-raising ceremony in Marawi City, Monday. (Reuters | Manila Bulletin)

The Islamic extremist rebels marched into Marawi, Lanao del Sur, on May 23 in an attempt to take over the city.

For Alejano, the key to defeating the Maute in Marawi is make sure that they don’t get any fresh supplies like food and ammunition, thus the need isolate them.

In this regard, the opposition lawmaker thinks government troops should just take their time and let the terrorists’ provisions run dry.

“The government might incur more casualties if they move in haste. The commanders on the ground have what it takes to resolve the conflict but they have to be deliberate,” the soldier-turned-politician said.

“The area where the Maute are holed up must be cordoned off from any reinforcement and resupply from their supporters. Certainly, the terrorists will run out of ammo and food,” said the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1995 graduate.

Hundreds of local folk are believed to be held hostage by the Maute. (With a report from Ellson A. Quismorio)

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