MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Lawmakers on Monday, October 16, welcomed the deaths of Abu Sayyaf subleader Isnilon Hapilon and Maute Group leader Omar Maute in clashes in Marawi City. (READ: Top Marawi siege leaders killed in clashes)
Senate committee on national defense and security chairman Gregorio Honasan II said the death of the two terrorists is a "positive development" but quickly pointed out that the fight does not end there.
Honasan, a former soldier, said the government has to ensure delivery of basic services to truly battle terrorism and insurgency.
"The neutralization of Hapilon and Omar Maute is a positive development. But the battle for the hearts and minds of our people is not won by body count. To fight terrorism, insurgency, secession, injustice, oppression, and deeper forms of violence, we need good government delivery of basic services – food, clothing, shelter, education, health, to begin with," Honasan said in a statement.
Minority senators Francis Pangilinan, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, and Antonio Trillanes IV, a former Navy officer, also commended the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for neutralizing the top leaders.
"I commend the AFP for neutralizing the Maute leaders, Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute. Hopefully, this also signifies the end of the major hostilities of the siege. This decisive victory is a fitting honor to our soldiers, both fallen and living, who bravely fought in this campaign," Trillanes said in a statement.
"Isa itong mahalagang development. Malaking bagay ito dahil mahigit 100 ang nalalagasan sa ating mga sundalo dahil sa mga terorista na ito. Kahit paano ang naging mabigat na sakripisyo ng ating mga sundalo ay nauwi sa pagsupil at pagpatay sa mga lider ng kaaway," Pangilinan said.
(This is an important development. This is a big thing because we lose more than 100 soldiers because of these terrorists. The heavy sacrifices of our soldiers have resulted in the deaths of the enemies' leaders.)
Immediate rehabilitation, return of troops
Senators also called on the government to immediately rehabilitate the war-torn city of Marawi. (READ: Marawi mayor gets emotional seeing houses inside battle area)
"Let us now go all out in the rebuilding of Marawi City to start the healing process for all those affected by this unfortunate war," Trillanes said.
"Let's start reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi [as soon as possible]," Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said in a text message. (READ: Foreign assistance for Marawi now at P2.1B)
"Now, let us start rebuilding a better Marawi. Let us also learn from the lessons of this tragedy by strengthening our intelligence and counterterrorism initiatives," Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito said.
"At last, with major terrorists eliminated, rehabilitation, resettlement and development activities can go full blast. These foreign and Filipino terrorists had caused misery, death, and destruction that affected our countrymen and the national economy," Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri said.
"Once peace and order is restored in the city, the government can finally begin in earnest the next battle: the fight to build Marawi back better than it ever was before. This is a challenge we have already begun preparing for, but we now need to double our efforts," Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said.
"With this victory, we hope that the firefighting will soon end so the government can immediately lift Martial Law and finally focus on rebuilding and developing Marawi City," Aquino said.
"Coupled with our fervent hope for this war to end soon is also our call for the national government, local officials of Marawi and affected areas, and concerned agencies to ensure speedy and effective coordination among them that will facilitate the provision of immediate support and rehabilitation to the victims of Marawi siege, especially to the displaced communities," Senator Joel Villanueva said.
For his part, Muntinlupa Representative Ruffy Biazon said it is time for the government to prepare the troops for a safe return, focusing on their mental health. (READ: Marawi battle zone: Urban warfare challenges PH military)
"The trauma and stress of the protracted battle, the likes of which has never been seen before by our soldiers, has surely taken its toll on those who fought against the terrorists," said Biazon, senior vice chairman of the House committee on national defense and security.
"Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has surely afflicted many of our soldiers and they need the appropriate mental health care as they return from the conflict. Beyond giving them a hero's welcome, we must ensure that they return to regular life with a normal state of mind," he added. – Rappler.com
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email email@example.com