Duterte tells Marawi troops: I won't abandon you

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President Rodrigo Duterte visits troops in Iligan City (File photo)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 4) — President Rodrigo Duterte has yet to visit ground zero, but he reiterated his support for government troops fighting terrorists in Marawi City.

In a video message released Monday by the Presidential Communications Operations Office, the commander in chief lauded his men and assured them the government will not abandon them.

"My salute goes to all of you there. Maraming salamat. Mabuhay kayong lahat. Hindi ko kayo kalimutan at hindi ko kayo pababayaan," Duterte said.

The military said 84 government troops were killed in clashes in Marawi as of Monday, more than a month since the siege started. At least 336 terrorists were killed, as well as 39 civilians.

"Government assures all the wounded and all the bereaved families that their needs will be attended to," Duterte said.

"The nation will never neglect the heroes of our Republic," he added.

Despite casualties suffered by the military, Duterte encouraged troops to "remain steadfast and alert."

He said martial law, which he declared throughout Mindanao on May 23 following clashes between government forces and the Maute terror group, will remain in effect until terrorists are flushed out. The 1987 Constitution, however, states military rule should last only 60 days.

Also read: Duterte declares martial law in Mindanao

Duterte reminded the soldiers that their job goes beyond fighting the terrorists.

"The people of Marawi will also need your assistance as they rebuild their lives and homes once our military operations come to a conclusion," Duterte said.

 

The crisis has forced the displacement of over 380,000 residents, according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development. Houses and infrastructure have been destroyed in terrorist bombings and government airstrikes.

Duterte has ordered the creation of an interagency unit that will supervise the recovery, reconstruction, and rehabilitation of Marawi once the fighting is over.

Also read: Gov't creates interagency task force for Marawi rehab

The President was supposed to visit the war zone last June 30, to mark his first year in office. But it was canceled due to bad weather.

Prior to that, he visited troops assigned in Marawi who were still in Iligan City, which is around 40 kilometers away. It is considered a safe zone, where thousands of evacuees from Marawi have sought refuge.

Duterte said he will spend more time in Mindanao until the fighting is over.

Related: Duterte plans to visit Marawi 'soon'