MARAWI CITY—President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan “to purge” Lanao del Sur of officials because they allegedly failed to help government fight and stop Islamic State-inspired terrorists here would make things more difficult for the besieged city and its displaced residents, an official said Saturday.
Zia Alonto Adiong, the spokesperson of the Lanao del Sur Crisis Management Committee, told reporters here that the President’s plan was saddening because it came at a time when rehabilitation efforts were about to start.
“We have already established coordination with the military and we are now in the stage of the early recovery. It would be prudent to work with city officials and the other local government units rather than go after them,” Adiong said.
In a speech during the ground-breaking ceremony of a housing project for Scout Ranger soldiers in San Miguel, Bulacan, Duterte said Marawi officials failed to provide information about tunnels in the city.
The military had said these structures were among things that slowed down the advancement of soldiers into the main battle areas.
“I think I’ll have to purge them,” Duterte said.
However, Adiong said some of the rumored tunnels and culverts were actually part of the city’s drainage system and the national government can easily verify it with the City Engineer’s Office.
“Nobody really actually knew what was the tactical operation of the Maute group. Nobody actually had any idea before that they will use the culverts and mobilize their troops underground,” he said.
Adiong said what the national government should do is to focus, move swiftly, and proceed with the early recovery of the city and its displaced residents.
“I guess purging the LGUs would be a distraction of our efforts,” he added.
He said the rehabilitation plan for the city would be difficult to achieve once the government focuses on running after officials.
Lanao del Sur Vice Gov. Mamintal Adiong Jr. said they were currently trying to consolidate recommendations on how to rebuild the city after the war.
Adiong made the disclosure as the military said it has come up with at least three options on how to go about the rehabilitation of the besieged city.
Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, the commander of the Western Mindanao Command, said the first option was to rebuild damaged structures so that the city will return to how it previously looked.
“There is a suggestion to just restore the damaged buildings,” he said during a briefing here on Wednesday.
Galvez said another option was to relocate residents, whose properties got damaged in the war, to another area after building them homes there.
“It’s not the whole of Marawi, which has been affected and in the main battle area. I talked to local officials and they said more than 10,000 households were severely affected,” Galvez said.
The third option, he said, was to completely build an entirely new city in another area and leave the current Marawi as a reminder of the war.
Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., the deputy commander of the Joint Task Group Ranao, said the military has also laid out plans for other post-conflict scenarios – including the projected return of displaced residents, even for visitation only.
He said the government’s Post-Conflict Assessment Teams were to arrive Saturday.
“By next week, they will be starting with the post-conflict assessment, starting from the cleared areas and moving towards the current main battle areas,” Brawner said.
Adiong, the provincial CMC spokesperson, said they were also told that some displaced residents will be allowed to return to their homes to collect important belongings they had left behind when the fighting started on May 23.
“The house visit will be allowed and will cover the controlled area. This will allow our residents to get their belongings from their houses,” Adiong said. /jpv
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