Again, Duterte says sorry for Marawi destruction
MARAWI CITY—President Duterte on Wednesday apologized again to the people of this Lanao del Sur provincial capital for the massive destruction it suffered from the government’s aerial bombardment to defeat Islamic State-inspired terror groups that laid siege to sections of the city from May to October last year.
In his visit here on Wednesday, the President, however, justified his actions by saying people had been sufficiently warned about what’s coming.
“Please forgive me but I have to do it,” Mr. Duterte said in a speech delivered during the inauguration of the second phase of Bahay Pagasa, a relocation site at Barangay Mipaga, on Wednesday. “I knew it would come to this … It pains me and I am asking for your heartfelt forgiveness,” he said.
The President also said that about three months before the siege on May 23 last year, indications were strong that the city would be attacked by terrorists.
“I would like to remind everybody, about three months before [the siege], information had already come in,” Mr. Duterte said. “The indications were strong. They were bringing in firearms in full view of the people.”
Mr. Duterte said the terrorists, led by the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups, ignored his warnings that they avoid Marawi, forcing him to declare martial law in Mindanao.
“I did that several times. I was appealing to them,” he said.
Several people earlier interviewed by the Inquirer had questioned the government’s response to the attack, which saw the deployment of thousands of soldiers and policemen to Marawi and the conduct bombings and airstrikes that reduced sections of the city into rubble. More than 200,000 people fled the city and nearby areas when the fighting started.
Drieza Lininding, chair of the Moro Consensus Group, said they could not understand why the government had to flatten sections of Marawi to defeat the Maute group, who could have only numbered a few hundreds.
While only about 17,000 individuals remained in evacuation centers, residents of 24 villages considered ground zero of the Marawi fighting had yet to return home. —DIVINA SUSON
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