By Beting Laygo Dolor, Editor-in-Chief
MANILA – Victory, at last.
After almost five months, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) finally ended the siege of the Islamic City of Marawi in Mindanao this week by taking out Omar Maute and Isnilon Hapilon.
Maute was head of the ISIS-allied Maute group which took over large parts of the city, while Hapilon led a faction of the Abu Sayyaf group which joined the Maute group at the height of the seige.
On Wednesday, October 18, the government through Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno announced that “Marawi City is now militant-free and is ready for rehabilitation.”
The government allotted P5 billion for the repair and rehabilitation of Marawi this year, to be followed by P10 billion next year.
President Duterte declared that Marawi City had been liberated from the terrorist group in Tuesday, October 17, the day after the AFP confirmed the deaths of Maute and Hapilon. Photos of the two showed that they had been struck by fatal shots to the head.
As a damper to the news, however, it was learned that leaders of IS Ranao, the ISIS-affiliated group that fought alongside the Maute group, had managed to escapt to the countryside.
Hapilon was the more wanted of the two leaders, carrying a bounty of $5 million from the US for his capture, dead or alive. The Philippine government also offered P10 million for his head.
Reports said that Hapilon offered “millions” to the AFP leadership to allow him to escape, but this offer was ignored.
Omar Maute, on the other hand, was one of two sibling who led the group named after their family, which had been politically active prior to the siege, His brother Abdullah was killed by government forces last month. The parents of the Maute brothers were earlier arrested for the financial support they gave the sons, and the couple is presently detained in Manila.
Analysts say that the end of the fighting marks the beginning of a long process of rehabilitation which may take years to complete. Aside from the P5 billion set aside this year and twice that amount next year, more funds will be needed do to the massive damage to the infrastructure of the city.
President Duterte proposed the issuance of “Marawi bonds” worth P30 billion to further finance the reconstruction. The bonds will be offered to the general public and will have higher interest rates than bank deposits. They will be guaranteed by the national government, which all but erases any risks to the buyers.