'Purging Marawi officials will distract rehab efforts'

MANILA, Philippines – The plan of President Rodrigo Duterte to "purge" local officials in Marawi City due to their shortcomings in helping government fight local armed groups will distract rehabilitation efforts in the city, the provincial crisis management committee said.

"It would render our rehab prospects for Marawi difficult to achieve if the government would focus their effort on running after officials instead of working with them to rebuild Marawi," Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesperson of the Lanao Del Sur Provincial Crisis Management Committee, said on Thursday, October 12.

"We are already clearing the main battle area of debris, a part of our early recovery effort. We should't include [in the clearing],sitting officials of the city [in the clearing]," Adiong said. 

Adiong belongs to the political clan that rules the province. The Marawi City Mayor Majul Usman Gandamra is the family's political ally.

On Wednesday, Duterte blamed Marawi officials for their supposed failure to provide information on the presence "tunnels" in the battle area. The military said the tunnels are among the factors that had slowed down the advance of troops against local armed groups that occupied the city. (READ: Maute ratholes, trenches revealed as troops gain ground in Marawi)

But Adiong said some of the tunnels are culverts that are part of the city's drainage system. 

"We advise the government to first consult the city engineers office because accordingly, some of those rumored tunnels are in fact culverts built for the drainage system," said Adiong.

Duterte had earlier blamed Marawi residents, too, for supposedly allowing Maute Group members and other terrorists to enter their city.

The war with local armed groups that pledged allegiance to international terrorist network Islamic State (ISIS) is now on its 5th month. The death toll is now over 1,000. – Rappler.com