By Genalyn Kabiling
President Duterte has ordered the military to restrain its offensives against Islamic State militants still holding 300 hostages in Marawi City, saying they should just “wait it out” even it takes a year.
The President has expressed concern about the safety of the hostages, saying the insurgents might behead the civilians if the troops would carry an assault against them.
“The fight in Marawi will be soon be over,” the President said during an investment forum in Davao City.
“(But) may 300 hostages sila. Sabi ko we’ll just have to wait it out. I said do not attack. Baril-barilan lang kayo dyan,” he added.
The President insisted he does not want any more lives lost in the Marawi fighting. “It’s not important to me if they are Moro or Christian… What is important we don’t want to kill people,” he said.
“Kung may nakikita kayo na tumatakbo, paputukan ninyo, but no assault there. Three hundred people that’s 300 lives. If we have to wait for one year, let us wait for one year,” he added.
Instead of firing bullets, the President said the military should instead give food to people still trapped in the area. “It’s our moral duty to see to it that they live and that they are fed,” he said.
Aside from the presence of civilian hostages, the President said the rebels have taken refuge in a mosque that has an underground tunnel.
The President made the remarks a day after he visited Marawi City for the first time since the rebellion started last May 23. Duterte met with the government troops and assured them of his steadfast support.