Two months passed after Islamist militants attacked one of the biggest cities in Mindanao, the fighting is dragging on, 114 soldiers killed and President Rodrigo Duterte says he is prepared to wait a year for it to end.
The defense top brass admits that it underestimated its enemy and its having a hard time to finish off the war against Pro-Islamic (IS) fighters who swept through Marawi City last May 23 and have held parts of it despite sustained ground attacks by hundreds of soldiers and daily pummeling by planes and artillery.
On Saturday, the lawmakers approved President Duterte’s request to extend martial law in Mindanao to the end of the year. Howeve, it remains vague how exactly Duterte plans to tackle Islamist extremist after troops retake Marawi, where about 70 militants remain holed up in the debris.
Furthermore, more than 500 people have been killed including 45 civilians and 114 government troops. According to Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, forty-nine others were wounded in Friday’s battle while nine soldiers were killed.
On the other hand, Duterte said he had to ask the military to avoid more civilian casualties.
“I told them ‘do not attack’. What’s important is we do not want to kill people. He said on Friday.
“If we have to wait there for one year, let us wait for one year.” He added.
Also, on Saturday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana indicated that after Marawi, the government would strengthen surveillance in the region, widening the net to detect rebel training camps and movements of militants.
The security experts say that the government needs a strategic overhaul after failing to act on warnings long ago.
“Things have changed dramatically.. our country must pursue some paradigm shifts” said Rodolfo Mendoza, an analyst and retired police intelligence officer.
Richard Javad Heydarian, a political science professor at De La Salle University, said Mr. Duterte, who came to power a year ago, channeled security resources into a war on drugs instead of countering Islamist radicalization in Mindanao, an issue the President himself has flagged in the past.