NUEVA ECIJA, Philippines – Shunning the advice of security officials, President Rodrigo Duterte will push through with a scheduled trip to Marawi City on Wednesday, November 30, a day after his own advance party of mostly security personnel was ambushed in the Lanao del Sur capital.
"I am going there. I am simply going there. The advice was to postpone but I said no, I'll still go and if possible, take the same route," Duterte said on Tuesday during his speech inaugurating the Mega Drug Abuse Treatment Center in Fort Magsaysay in this province.
Duterte even made light of the violence and conflict he had described as "raging" in Marawi, saying it would allow him to get some "exercise."
"I have a little gunfight there, gunfight here. Exercise," he said to laughter from the audience.
If he doesn't make it out alive, Vice President Leni Robredo can take the country's reins as provided by law, he said in his usual deadpan manner.
"Kung hindi ako lumusot (If I don't get through), that's why we have the Vice President, Leni Robredo. You can have a gentle president also in exchange for a discourteous mouth," he said, to even louder laughter.
Before boarding his vehicle, reporters asked Duterte what he would do about the Maute group, which he himself has linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
"Kaibiganin natin para walang gulo (Make friends so there is no trouble)," Duterte said without elaborating.
Hours earlier, 9 members of his advance party – 7 from the Presidential Security Group and two soldiers – were injured in an ambush. An improvised explosive device exploded as the team passed through Sitio Matalupay in Marawi.
The team was on its way to prepare for Duterte's visit intended to raise the morale of government troops on the frontline of operations against terror group Maute. – 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.