"There are lots of work that have to be done, and this calls for the cooperation of everyone in the Philippines."
I am writing the article for this edition of my column mainly to congratulate President Rodrigo Duterte, and the men and women of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) for the handling of the Marawi crisis.
I congratulate President Duterte for his display of leadership and political will. As soon as word that Marawi was under assault from Daesh militants came out, he immediately decided to cut short his official visit to Russia, and, after meeting with President Vladimir Putin earlier than scheduled, immediately declared martial law in Mindanao and flew back to the Philippines. He gave full support to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Eduardo Ano, and other military and civilian officials as they tackled the situation head on and looked for ways to clamp down on terrorists who seized control of the city. As Commander-in-Chief of the AFP, he flew to Marawi several times to personally give support to troops on the ground, and assess the situation by talking to military commanders and local government unit officials. Despite manufactured noise from the political opposition and several other groups, the President remained firm with his decisions, as nothing was more important to him than to protect the people of Marawi and the rest of Mindanao, and the whole country from the threat being posed by religious radicals.
I congratulate Defense Secretary Lorenzana, AFP Chief of Staff Ano, PNP Director General Ronald de la Rosa, and the men and women of the AFP and the PNP for successfully liberating Marawi from Daesh militants. Despite facing a variety of challenges, soldiers and members of the police force showed bravery, courage, determination and dedication in getting the job done. The military and police commanders on the ground; and top DND, AFP and PNP officials, with full support coming from President Duterte, displayed leadership and command responsibility in guiding the troops and ensuring that the goal of setting Marawi free from the clutches of Islamic fundamentalists will be met. Of course, Marawi will not be liberated without the sacrifices of those who died, got wounded, and placed their lives on the line, and for that, I sincerely thank them.
However, the liberation of Marawi is not the end but only signals the beginning of a new chapter in our country's history. The last remaining militants must be dealt with accordingly, the last remaining hostages has to be rescued and Marawi has to be fully cleared before residents of the city can return home. The process of physical, psychological and emotional recovery and rehabilitation of Marawi and its people will soon commence, and this should be the next focus of the Duterte government. Religious radicalism will always be a threat to the Philippines and the world, in general, which is why the government, and the military and police should be prepared to address it through all possible means.
There are lots of work that have to be done, and this calls for the cooperation of everyone in the Philippines. This is not the right time to resort to politicking or anything that will cause confusion and division among Filipinos. The success of Marawi is the success of our entire country and of all us, and it will be much sweeter to see the city and its people bouncing back from the crisis because of a united approach to look for solution, and starting the process of recovery and healing from the horrors brought about by religious radicalism.