DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Ground commanders directing military operations to retake Marawi City will have the discretion to using big bombs in areas where members of ISIS-linked Maute Group are still holed up.
Armed Forces spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, Jr. told reporters during the Mindanao Hour press conference in Malacañang on Friday that decision as to the number of bombs or ordnance to be used, including its sizes ”is operational in nature.”
“It is a matter left to the discretion of the ground commander,” Padilla added.
Padilla also explained: “the amount of force applied to a specific target should be commensurate to the target that needs to be destroyed. So if it’s a small target, it’s small ordnance. If it’s a big target, then it demands bigger ordnance.”
Joint Task Force Marawi last month also denied reports that the AFP is using poison bombs in the area.
Read related story: Troopers not using poison bomb in Marawi
“So the discretion of the ground commander here is what we respect regarding the targets that he needs to address,” Padilla added.
But Padilla also hinted the use of bigger bombs in dealing with well-built buildings inside Marawi.
“There are buildings there that could not be easily destroyed because these are well-built area and hence, he may need bigger ordnance,” he said.
Hapilon still in Marawi
In the absence of hard fact that indeed Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon already went out of Marawi, the assumption that he is still in the area still remains, Padilla said.
“First, on the status of Isnilon Hapilon: The assumption of our ground commanders based on the lack of confirmation regarding his escape or flight from the area of Marawi is that he’s still in the area,” he said.
He also pointed out that ground operations are also focused on the areas where the ASG leader is believed to be hiding.
“I could not disclose that exact location,” he said.
Padilla also raised the possibility that one of the Maute brothers is killed during the military offensives in Marawi.
“There is an indication that one has died. But until such time that the grave on where he was buried is located, we cannot categorically confirm. But for the others, we believe they are alive,” he clarified.
Less than 100 enemies
Padilla also told reporters that based on the estimates of the ground commanders of the AFP more or less 80 remaining members of Maute Group are still fighting government forces in Marawi.
The AFP spokesperson was also hopeful the crisis in Marawi will soon end to pave the way for the rehabilitation of the area and the return of the displaced residents.
In some conflict areas in Marawi, there was no longer resistance posed by the Mautes, though there are still enemy positions that resistance is still strong.
“Dahil sa ilang lugar hindi na sila sumasagot ng tulad noong mga naunang Linggo. Ngayon manaka-naka na lang pero may ibang lugar kasi na matindi pa rin silang lumaban,” he said.
The situation, he added, also means that Maute’s still have enough weapons.
“So ibig sabihin their stockpile of weapons could still be there and they still may have enough. So these are the areas that we are focusing on and addressing.” Padilla said.
Though no deadline yet set as to when the crisis will be over, he said the government is exerting all its efforts to expedite the liberation of Marawi.
“Ginagawa po natin lahat ng ating makakaya upang matapos na itong gulong ito sa madaling panahon. Pero batid naman po ninyo na hindi ganoon kadali itong operasyon na ito at sa mga paliwanag natin ng mga nakaraang linggo, itong environment na kinaroroonan ng mga bakbakang ito ay hindi biro kaya kinakailangan maging maingat tayo sa paggalaw natin,” Padilla said. (davaotoday.com)