The military leadership led by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Benjamin Madrigal opened this whole area to the media when he visited the troops guarding this place, which remains off-limits to civilians.
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After 2 years, Marawi still in ruins
Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - January 20, 2019 - 12:00am

MARAWI CITY, Philippines — Heavily-damaged buildings and houses of worship, abandoned homes, ruined business establishments and empty streets are what is left of this former bustling Islamic center devastated by five months of heavy fighting between government forces and the Islamic State (IS)-inspired Maute Group two years ago.

The military leadership led by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Benjamin Madrigal opened this whole area to the media when he visited the troops guarding this place, which remains off-limits to civilians.

Despite the end of the fighting that left more than 160 soldiers and more than 1,000 terrorists dead, heavily armed troops stand guard here to prevent the possible return of the IS-inspired terrorists, as well as looters.

“Though they’re only a handful, but they continue to be a threat because they are still there. But with the continued efforts of troops, we have significantly reduced their number,” Madrigal said.

“Of course, we are confident that he will be caught sometime, especially since we have our intelligence operations running,” he said, referring to the IS-Maute leader Abu Dar.

Madrigal took the media to the destroyed St. Mary’s Cathedral that stands as testament to the destruction left by the Islamic militants.

He also entered the destroyed LandBank building where the late Army Capt. Rommel Sandoval was during the fighting.

“Seeing this place reminds me of our soldiers’ sacrifices and the wrongs committed by the IS-inspired Maute Group and their foreign and local supporters to the people of Marawi,” Madrigal said.

Madrigal’s visit here was the last leg of his three-day sortie in Mindanao to ensure the readiness of the soldiers in ensuring a peaceful and orderly Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) plebiscite tomorrow.

On Thursday, Madrigal flew to Sulu before proceeding to Maguindanao to join Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who attended the grand rally for yes votes with President Duterte as guest of honor and speaker.

Madrigal aired an appeal to the spoilers of peace to mend their ways and be part of the civilized society.

“We don’t want a repeat of Marawi and we in the military, we are always ready to extend our hands of peace,” he said.

Accompanying Madrigal’s appeal was a declaration of the AFP’s resolve in performing its mandate to ensure the safety of the people and state from any threat, local or foreign.

Except for some minor threats, Marawi has become a relatively peaceful place to live in and even predicted a very peaceful BOL plebiscite, officials said.

“If you ask the local officials here, after the siege, Marawi has become the safest place in the entire country because it is now being amply secured by thousands soldiers and policemen,” an Army official said.

ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES MARAWI MAUTE GROUP
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