Liberation of Marawi City remembered

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star
Liberation of Marawi City remembered
Armed Forces chief Gen. Carlito Galvez lays a wreath to honor fallen soldiers yesterday during a ceremony at Kampo Ranao in Marawi commemorating the city’s liberation from terrorist influence.
Photo Provided By Joint Task Force Marawi

MANILA, Philippines — A year after its liberation from Islamic State (IS)-linked militants, Marawi City is inching its way to total recovery and freedom from terrorism and violence, with P20 billion earmarked to help its citizens rebuild their homes and livelihood, Malacañang said yesterday.

“Today we commemorate the liberation of Marawi from the malevolent hands of terrorists,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said from Davao City.

“As we celebrate the triumphs of our government troops against the Daesh-inspired Maute rebels, we pay tribute to those who have fallen in the fierce battles during the siege of Marawi and gave the ultimate sacrifice to make our nation safer and more secure,” he said.

He was mum on the whereabouts of President Duterte, who skipped the anniversary rites attended by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Carlito Galvez and other ranking officials.

“Our people stand – and will unceasingly stand – united against the evils of terrorism,” Panelo said.

He also lauded the military’s action that led to the death of suspected terror leaders Omar Maute and Isnilon Hapilon.

Scars of months-long fighting were still visible in most parts of the country’s only Islamic city.

The government’s military action – including aerial bombing and massive infantry attack – had thwarted the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in the area and staved off the possibility of violence spreading to other parts of the country, Duterte’s spokesman said.

He assured the public that the government will not waiver in the fight against terrorism.

“Despite this feat, the government, with the help of its armed forces, will remain vigilant in the midst of quiet for possible terrorist threats that may again strike our nation,” Panelo said.

Duterte has not withdrawn his declaration of martial law in Mindanao. Armed men held the city under siege on May 23 last year, while the Chief Executive was on an official trip to Moscow. Congress would later approve martial law extension until the end of the year.

Duterte also issued administrative order No. 3 creating Task Force Bangon Marawi.

“Efforts to build a vibrant and prosperous Marawi from the rubble of war and conflict will soon come into fruition as we expect the groundbreaking of reconstruction activities, designed with due recognition of the cultural sensitivities of its residents, by the end of the month,” Panelo said.

“We therefore ask everyone to remain fully supportive of the government’s initiatives in this regard,” he said.

Honoring the dead

Galvez said there is much to celebrate for the “liberation of Marawi City from the siege that had destroyed a beautiful city and ruined the lives and dreams of many of our beloved countrymen.”

In commemorating the first year of Marawi’s liberation, the nation – Galvez said – is also honoring the memory of 168 government troops who died in the fighting.

He led a wreath laying ceremony for the fallen soldiers at the Heroes’ Wall inside the headquarters of the Army 103rd Brigade at Kampo Ranao.

Assisted by Maj. Gen. Roseller Murillo, commander of the 1st Infantry Division, and other key ground military commanders, Galvez also pinned medals on 20 officers and enlisted personnel.

Also present during the ceremony was Catholic priest Chito Suganob, one of the civilian hostages who escaped his captors.

Galvez pointed out that by winning the peace, “it is but fitting to honor the fallen ones and reward those who have valiantly fought the terrorists with all their hearts, blood, sweat and tears.”

“One year ago, we showed the world our bravery. Every terrorist fighter lured to Marawi City by false promises and extremist ideology of hate saw our bravery and felt our wrath,” Galvez said.

Galvez was the overall commander of the five-month battle, being the commander of the Zamboanga City-based AFP-Western Mindanao Command (AFP-Wescom).

“They continue to see our fearlessness as we stand watch over our country, ever vigilant against the resurgence of terror on our shores,” Galvez said, referring to the terrorists.

But despite the government’s promise of massive reconstruction and rehabilitation of the devastated city, hundreds of displaced families are still staying at various evacuation camps.

The military said it has to restrict the movement of civilians in the city as troopers have yet to complete their bomb clearing operations, especially at ground zero. –  With Jaime Laude

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