Local chief execs visit Marawi main battle area
MARAWI CITY – Dr. Jose Rizal, the national hero, was the first to be beheaded by the Islamic State-inspired terrorists when war broke out here on May 23.
“If you ask who was the first person beheaded by the Maute, it was Rizal,” resident Kadaffy Daromimbang said in jest.
The national hero’s statue was in Barangay Marinaut West, which was visited by more than 20 municipal mayors of Lanao del Sur, including city mayor Majul Gandamra, on Tuesday morning.
The statue was no longer standing at the park.
It was the first time for most of the local chief executives to enter the main battle area. They were led by Lanao del Sur Vice Governor Mamintal Adiong Jr.
Col. Generoso Ponio, acting commander of the Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade, said the objective of bringing the local chief executives in ground zero was for them to make a unified assessment so that they can decide whether the destroyed city still has to be rebuilt.
“It’s their area, so it is them who have to decide on what to do,” Ponio told reporters.
He said the military also wanted the local officials to visit the area for them to see that it was already cleared of stragglers.
“This means government forces have already occupied the area. But it is still not safe for residents to come back because of the unexploded ordnance and improvised explosive devices,” Ponio added.
The military said the troops on the ground continued with their clearing operations.
Mayor Benjie Balindong of Wato Balindong town described the area as “beyond recognition.”
Mayor Ali Sumandar of Piagapo town got emotional as he entered the main battle area, the first time since war erupted.
The Maute fighters tried to occupy Sumandar’s town in April, a month before the Marawi siege, but the group was immediately driven away by the military. The war lasted for only five days, with some foreign fighters, including an Imam, killed.
“This would not have happened if they (Marawi residents) listened to me that they had to be vigilant. But we cannot blame one community to what happened in Marawi City because this is everybody’s concern,” Sumandar said.
Sumandar said he was very devastated and angry upon seeing Marawi’s destruction.
“I am angry at the Maute because they are forcing their ideology,” he said.
Mayor Gandamra said he was happy that the military operation has ended, but was sad for the destruction. He, however, was optimistic that Marawi will rise up.
“We are hoping on the President’s statement that government will make Marawi better that it was,” he said.
Gandamra said almost 30 buildings owned by relatives, including his family’s ancestral home, were destroyed.
“It will take years to rebuild Marawi into a better city,” he said.
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