Duterte finally sets foot in war-torn Marawi, boosts morale

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 20) — As troops launched a daring assault against ISIS-linked Maute stragglers, President Rodrigo Duterte's chopper landed in Camp Ranao on Thursday shortly after noon.

The President finally made good on his promise to set foot in this devastated city where fighting continues after almost two months.

Armed Forced of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said Duterte landed "amidst the sound of gun and artillery fires on the background." Troops at the time where launching an assault from the other end of Mapandi bridge, site of one of the fiercest battles in this city's downtown area, he said.

Duterte was there to boost troop morale, but he couldn't help tearing up during his speech, when he talked about the soldiers who died fighting for their country.


"Every night, tuwing mababasa ako yung briefer, nagbabasa ko yung ilang casualties [Every night, when I read the briefer, I read about the number of casualties]," he said.

"But I grieve, maski dun sa mga namatay na civilians. Ganun din lalo na sundalo, lalo na ako nag-utos sa inyo para kayo makipag-away at mamatay," added the President, whose declaration of martial law in Mindanao on May 23 pushed the military into a nearly two-month long offensive to flush out the Maute group.

[Translation: But I grieve, even for the civilians who died. I also grieve for the soldiers, especially since I ordered you to fight and die.]

Ninety-nine government troops and 45 civilians have died since the fighting began, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a briefing Thursday. Some 421 terrorists have been killed, he added.

The military said there are about 70 Maute fighters including foreign terrorists putting up fierce resistance in certain areas of the city.

The chief executive has repeatedly said that he would not want to visit Marawi when fighting had already ended, saying his life was just as important as any soldier's.

Joint Task Force (JTF) Marawi spokesperson Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Hererra said the commander-in-chief thanked the troops for their heroism and sacrifices in fighting the Maute-ISIS terror group.

"Ito ay isang very intimate na visit," Herrera said. "It's like a father visiting his sons and daughters. Talagang pinalakas ang loob, nagbigay-pugay at talagang sumuporta sa ating mga sundalo," he added.

[Translation: This is a very intimate visit. It's like a father visiting his sons and daughters. He really gave our soldiers strength by honoring and supporting them.]

After a briefing from military officials, Hererra said the President gave out care packages and watches to the troops.

Herrera added that the President gave no standing orders nor deadlines, and clearing operations would continue.

The JTF spokesman also noted that the weather had been very cooperative for the President's visit, which concluded shortly before 5 p.m.

Duterte's previously planned visits to Marawi were foiled due to bad weather.

Related: Bad weather foils another Duterte visit to Marawi

This story was updated 8 a.m. of July 21 to include statements from President Rodrigo Duterte and Joint Task Force Marawi Spokesperson Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera.