MANILA, Philippines – On the 100th day of the Marawi siege, President Rodrigo Duterte said he won't stop the Philippine military from bombing the remaining strongholds of terrorists in the city, including mosques where hostages are also likely being kept.
"The option is already yours, because we cannot have stalemate for over one year. Kung makiusap tayo na lumabas na lang (If we can talk so they are released), 'Free the hostages, do not harm them, do not cut their heads,'" he said on Wednesday, August 30.
He was speaking before personnel of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) in Taguig City.
Duterte said it was hard for him to come to the decision since bombing mosques and madrasas could generate more hatred between Christians and Muslims. (READ: Duterte in Marawi: Never allow terrorists' ideology to spread)
"It will generate more hatred, instead of healing pero matagal na kasi (but it's taking so long), it's out of my hands already," he said, adding that police, local government units, and civilians were already "complaining" about the length of the Marawi siege.
But Duterte said he will still try to save the hostages. He has sent an emissary to convince terrorists in the city to release their captives.
"I have sent somebody na (already), if we can save the day for all of us," the President said.
The plan to bomb terrorists' hiding places, and in so doing "sacrifice" the hostages, had been suggested by the military weeks before but Duterte instructed them to "wait it out."
"Matagal na 'yan on deck na talagang gustong bobombahin ang mosque to capture or kill the leaders there and in the process sacrifice 'yung mga hostage," he said.
(That plan has been on deck for a long time – to bomb mosques to capture or kill the leaders there and in the process sacrifice the hostages.)
"But I have my limits, even if I'm president, hanggang diyan lang ako (that's my limit), I cannot go beyond that," he added.
Senators had also supposedly told Duterte, "There has to be a time when you will stop stopping the Armed Forces."
Duterte gave his speech in Taguig City right after presiding over a joint military-police command conference in Malacañang.
As of August 25, terrorists in Marawi City may still be holding some 30 hostages, according to Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla. (READ: Marawi battle zone: Urban warfare challenges PH military) – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.