MANILA, Philippines — The military might submit next week its recommendation on whether or not there is a need to extend martial law over Mindanao, Brigadier General Restituto Padilla, Armed Forces spokesman, said Friday.
Padilla said although they are still assessing the situation in Marawi City, where government forces have been battling extremist gunmen since May 23, they need to submit their recommendation to President Rodrigo Duterte before July 22, the 60th day of his declaration of martial law over Mindanao.
The AFP spokesman said they estimate there are more or less 80 extremists in Marawi, mostly from the Maute group but including Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, the so-called Southeast Asian “emir” of the Islamic State.
Padilla added that they still need to confirm reports that one of the Maute brothers, who founded the extremist group that bears their name, may have been killed in the more than one-month long battle that has seen large sections of the Lanao del Sur capital city devastated by the violence that has included air and artillery strikes.
At the same time, Padilla said it was up to the ground commander to determine if even stronger ordnance will be needed in Marawi.
“The amount of force applied to a specific target should be commensurate to the target that needs to be destroyed, so if it’s a small target, it’s a small ordnance. If it’ a big target then it demands a bigger ordnance,” he explained.
The AFP spokesman also said less than a thousand houses and establishments in Marawi still need to be cleared, with troops clearing an average of a hundred a day.
“Ginagawa po natin ang lahat ng ating makakaya upang matapos na itong gulo na ito sa madaling panahon pero batid naman po niyo na hindi ganu’n kadali ang operasyon na ito (We are doing everything we can to end this problem as soon as possible but you know that this operation isn’t that easy),” he added.
Padilla also said an inter-agency task force tasked with overseeing the rehabilitation of Marawi has been continuously meeting.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella noted that Duterte “has said that he will especially help those who cannot afford the rebuilding of their structures.”