Marawi crisis was a lesson for us – Lorenzana
The ongoing crisis in Marawi City, which has killed at least 500 people and displaced thousands as the battle rages for two months now, was a lesson learned for the defense department.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana admitted that the Marawi crisis was a failure of intelligence in a way.
“What happened in Marawi is a lesson for every one of us in the defense department,” he said at the MAP General Membership Meeting at Makati Shangri-La on Tuesday.
Lorenzana narrated that when he was named as Secretary of National Defense last year, he was told that there was no presence of Islamic State militants in the Philippines, but they had to change tune a few months later.
“When I assumed the position of Secretary of Defense, I was told there was no ISIS in the Philippines. We were keeping that stand until in November when we had this operation in Butig against the Maute Group so then we would change our stance and said they are there, they are here,” he said.
The siege started on May 23 in Marawi City when security forces tried to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, the purported leader of the IS branch in Southeast Asia. Early this year, Lorenzana revealed that they have received information that the Basilan-based Hapilon moved to Central Mindanao to put up a caliphate.
Combined forces of the Maute terrorist group and the Abu Sayyaf attacked parts of the city on that same day. It also prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao for 60 days, and was later extended until the end of the year.
“There are a lot of talks coming around that there was failure of intelligence, in a way it was. When we were in Moscow when this thing blew up and I was asked by one of the media people there, was it a failure of intelligence I said, it was a failure to appreciate intelligence,” Lorenzana said.
“For the longest time we were reading in the website of the ISIS in the Middle East that says if you want to continue fighting after here you go to southern Philippines,” he added.
The defense chief admitted that the military had been in denial despite the warning of President Rodrigo Duterte and the advice of nearby countries that ISIS is in the Philippines.
“We failed to appreciate the looming problem because they were trying to infiltrate from the outside towards Marawi City, a lot of firearms, a lot of fighters foreign and local,” he said.
Asked who should be responsible for what happened, Lorenzana said they should instead restudy their intelligence efforts so they will be more prepared if something similar happens again.
“Blaming somebody is past that we can no longer bring back the lives of those [lost],” he said.
As of Tuesday, 109 government troops, 45 civilians, and 453 terrorists have been killed because of the fighting. Lorenzana described the fighting as intense, and it will take time to clear the city.
“It will take some more time for us to clear Marawi because we have to do it slowly,” he said.
Another factor why it was taking time to finish the ongoing battle was because of their clearing operations.
“The Maranaos in Marawi City built their homes very sturdy. They are all concrete, buhos and konkreto yan, they have basements and they cannot be breached by simple, the canons, the M203, we have this grenade launchers, the M203 cannot breach those,” he said, adding that troops cannot get through the doors and windows because they were rigged with bombs, so they have to get inside by breaking the walls.
On an average, 40 to 50 structures are cleared daily by security forces and there are about 600 more to go.
“We are looking at the resolution of the Marawi incident maybe a week, a month or so, then after that we can again deal with some of the problems that’s happening in some other parts of Mindanao,” he said.
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