MANILA, Philippines – On the 12th day of clashes between government forces and terrorists in Marawi City, President Rodrigo Duterte expressed confidence that the siege will be over in the next few days.
“Kaya itong nahirapan tayo (This difficulty we have), this will be over in about 3 more days,” said Duterte during an interview with media on Saturday, June 3, in Cagayan de Oro.
He said clashes are likely to end with the Maute Group members having suffered many more deaths than government troops.
“At gross disparity. So many of the rebels are dead. The government did not lack in its efforts,” he said in Filipino.
But if government were not bound by laws, Duterte said he could end the conflict in “24 hours” by pounding Marawi City with bombs.
“Truth be told, were it not because government is bound by rules and the values of civilization, I can end this war in 24 hours. You know, I’ll just bomb everything. I have 10 new jets. All I have to do is to bomb the whole place and level it to the ground,” said the President.
But bound by international laws, Duterte said troops are doing their best to ensure no civilians would be killed.
“But since we are in a civilized society and we are a member of the United Nations and of the Geneva Convention Protocol, I am having a hard time and we had to do it to the least maximum damage of collaterals, especially civilian,” he said.
The enemy, in comparison, are bound by no such rules.
“But the enemy, they have no compassion about – they just shoot here, there. For them, even if they kill a civilian or soldier, it doesn’t matter to them,” said Duterte.
The military missed its June 2 deadline to take full control of Marawi City from terrorists. It is also unlikely to meet its July deadline to significantly weaken the Abu Sayyaf, which operates in the Basilan and Jolo areas of Mindanao.
The last siege the military had to deal with, the Zamboanga siege in 2013, took more than 3 weeks to end.
The clashes in Marawi City were what prompted Duterte to declare martial law over Mindanao. Martial law, declared the same day as the start of the clashes, is entering its 13th day on Sunday, June 4.
The 1987 Constitution states martial law must not exceed 60 days. Any extension must be approved by Congress. (READ: Martial Law 101: Things you should know) – Rappler.com