A netizen wondered what made President Rodrigo Duterte change his tune on Marawi after he declared earlier in June that the fighting in Marawi would end in three days but said over three weeks later that he knew it would be “a long fight.”
Bernard Ong quoted Duterte’s two statements about the Marawi conflict on two separate instances – one on June 3 and the other on June 27.
On June 3, the President gave what can be considered as an estimate as to when the Marawi siege would end – three days.
June 3: “This will be over in about three more days. At a gross… disparity. Many rebels have died. But the government did not fail to do what it was supposed to do.”
But on June 27, when he surfaced after six straight days of being out of the public eye, Duterte said that he had the “complete picture” because he knew everything even when he was still in Moscow, noting that the Marawi conflict would be “a long fight.”
Jun 27: “When I declared martial law while I was in Moscow, I already knew everything. I knew how long it would take for us and I knew about the deployment of snipers and where they’re hiding their weapons. I already have the complete picture and I knew that it would be a long fight.”
Aside from his absence from June 21 to June 26, Duterte was also not seen publicly from June 11 to June 17, causing him to miss the Independence Day celebrations.
The President’s ‘change in tune’ on Marawi prompted Ong to wonder what happened within a span of 24 days.
“Something must have happened in the 24-day period between the two “sincere” speeches.
- Memory lapse due to brain dysfunction?
B. Side effect of Fentanyl drug over-use?
C. Duterte decoy talking nonsense?
D. The real Duterte also talking nonsense?
E. Mental fatigue from long vacations?
F. Time traveller getting dates mixed up?”
The changing deadlines
On June 29, Duterte once again gave his own “estimate” as to when the Marawi crisis would end.
“The way it’s evolving now, I think it will be a matter of days. Before the end of the month, matatapos na (it will end),” he said in a speech at Camp Quintin Merecido in Davao City.
And his reasons for thinking such? He said, “Well, there is less enemy to contend with. Less resistance and less fighting.”
“We are winning the war, do not worry,” he added.
On June 5, a few days after President Duterte initially gave his three-day deadline to end the Marawi conflict, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said that ground commanders were the ones who could determine the conclusion of the Marawi siege.
During the June 5 “Mindanao Hour” press briefing, Padilla was also asked about Duterte’s 3-day “deadline.” It started from mark -26:31 to -22:18.
Reporter: Gen. Padilla, the president said that the Marawi conflict or the Marawi crisis will end in about 3 days. He said that last Saturday, now it’s Monday. So is that target doable or we are seeing another adjustment in the target?
Padilla: As I have repeatedly explained, the basis for determination of any military action on the ground, will be the call of the commander. They are the ones who are fully aware of the situation, gravity of the situation they face, as well as the solutions they have to address those. So at the moment, as we have mentioned previously, the previous week, that about 10% of the city remains… areas where the enemies are holed up in. I believe this number has gone down to specific areas, but I’m not specifically sure what exact percentage that is. Be that as it may, our ground commanders are the real authorities who can say when the fight will end and when every nook and cranny of the city has been freed of any armed element. As to when this will be, I personally cannot say and I will defer to the judgment call of the commander on the ground.
Reporter: But based on what’s happening on the ground, is the Tuesday (June 6) or Wednesday (June 7) deadline, if we can call it deadline, doable?
Padilla: Our commanders have tried to meet the deadline. There’s no denying that. We have gone all out. We have done all our best and we have been operating 24/7. This operation will continue at that phase. We will not change that but again, complications have been coming out. And complications, what we mean by this is the continued use of civilians, potential hostages that may still be in their hands, the use of places of worship, for one, which prevents us from going all out, and other factors that complicates the battle because of its urban terrain.
Reporter: Okay, last follow up. Medyo nasagot nyo na yung susunod ko sanang tanong. Why is it proving so difficult to regain the city considering that you’ve already said that you’re seeing the end, parang malapit na yung end. Ano yung factors na nagpapahirap to regain the control? Is it the civilians or is it the persistence of the Maute Group?
Padilla: Both of those are factors but most critical is the presence of civilians, exact locations of which we are not in the know. So as was gleaned and seen in the scenarios of rescues that were conducted the previous week, may mga bahay na hindi natin akalain na may mga nakatira pa. Napakatahimik po nung lugar pero pagkadaan natin, may lumalabas na putting bandera. Hindi natin akalain na may nakatira so doon po nagsisimula yung pag rescue. May mga lugar din po na napasok natin dahil ginagamit nating daanan papunta doon sa lugar ng mga kalaban, pagdating natin doon may natagpuan tayong mga matatanda na hindi makagalaw sa sarili nilang pamamaraan, na nanghihina na dahil wala nang naging pagkain ng mga nakaraang araw. So itong mga pagkakataong ito ang sinasabi nating nagiging complications kaya’t tulad ng binigay na abiso at guidance n gating Chief of Staff na si Gen. [Eduardo] Año, mariin niyang ipinag-utos sa lahat ng ating mga tropa na bigyan ng importansiya dito ay ang buhay ng sibilyan, na wala dapat magiging biktima ng kung anumang karahasan ng anumang pagkakataon na maiiwasan natin ang collateral damage, dapat gawin natin. So that is the primordial concern and those are the factors that makes our troops less capable of expeditiously addressing many of these threats.
Reporter: Thank you, General.
On June 27, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said during his radio interview on DZRH that there has been a “bit of pressure” to end the Marawi conflict, which has been going on since May 23, as President Duterte is scheduled to deliver his SONA this July 24.
“Medyo meron pressure dahil alam mo kung nandyan pa rin yung Marawi [conflict] at nagpapatayan pa rin eh parang hindi maganda sa State of the Nation Address ng Presidente,” he said.
Lorenzana said Armed Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Año told him the battle may end in over a week.
“Sabi sa’kin ni Gen. Año nu’ng tinanong ko last week eh sabi niya ‘Siguro, sir, baka isang linggo na lang ‘yan baka tapos na ‘yan,’” he added.
Lorenzana also said that the Mautes seem to want to “fight to the death” but added that the conflict may end before Duterte will deliver his SONA.
“Ito kasing Maute parang nakikita namin dito e they are going to fight to the death na eh….Sinasabihan namin sila na mag surrender na kayo, hindi na kayo mananalo pero patuloy pa rin ang operation. Pero matatapos na siguro ito bago magkaroon ng Sona, siguro tapos na yan,” he added.
“Sandali na lang po at matatapos na ito..So ‘yun ang gagawin natin tutulungan natin ‘yung mga kababayan d’yan ibalik’ yung kanilang mga tahanan sa dati at i-repair natin ‘yung infrastructure…Siguro sandali na lang po, one or two weeks na lang tapos na ito,” Lorenzana said.
Earlier, the military said that they would no longer set deadlines in retaking Marawi City after failing to meet previous ones because of the challenges posed by the urban terrain.
“We will not set deadlines. We will ensure that we are able to clear it of any armed element that still exists and it may take some time,” Padilla said in a press briefing in Malacañang on June 14.
“The operations we are doing, as I mentioned earlier, is not as easy as the ones we are doing in jungles. So it will entail a bit of time before we clear every house of any armed element. So we beg for some patience but we are getting there,” he added.
“The military activities that are conducted in open terrains like jungles are a different story when it is compared to urban terrain. In an urban terrain where civilians are still currently trapped and may possibly be used as human shields or may be hit by crossfire, troops have to be very careful,” Padilla said.
“Our rules of engagement are very different in urban terrain. We have to be very careful, we have to very judicious, we have to be very deliberate so as to avoid hitting innocent lives. And this is where the slow process of liberating Marawi is currently happening,” he added.
Before this, the military said they would seek to free Marawi City on June 12, the 119th celebration of Philippine independence, but the deadline was not met.