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Gov’t misses deadline to end siege

TANKS of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Mechanized Division roll out of the 103rd Philippine Army Brigade headquarters to flush out the remaining Maute Group members in Marawi City. (Mark Balmores)

TANKS of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Mechanized Division roll out of the 103rd Philippine Army Brigade headquarters to flush out the remaining Maute Group members in Marawi City. (Mark Balmores)

The government has been unable to meet its self-imposed June 2 deadline to flush out extremists in Marawi City after the troops faced some difficulties, including the rebels’ use of civilians as human shields.

Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla admitted the troops have calibrated their movement to avoid endangering the lives of civilians trapped in the conflict.

“Based on the report that we’re getting, I don’t think we can meet that deadline today to completely – I’d like to qualify that – to completely free Marawi of every single armed element in every street,” Padilla said in a Palace press conference.

“Compounding the situation on the ground is the use of these forces, these armed elements of children and civilians as human shields,” he said.

Padilla said the troops would abide by the rules of engagement when faced with such “complexity of war,” citing their commitment to ensure the safety and protection of women and children.

“Sinisigurado na wala silang kasama. Mahirap gumalaw kapag may dalang sibilyan na gamit na shield. ‘Yung sundalo hindi talaga magpapaputok,” he said.

“There are international protocols related to this kaya nag-iingat tayo. We have to protect children, we have to protect women, we have to protect innocent lives,” Padilla said.

Apart from the use of human shields, Padilla said the armed groups have also turned the madrasahs into staging areas and the mosque as sniper nest. Such tactics were employed by the rebels in their hope “to limit the movement of our forces and their capability to neutralize them,” he added.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier set June 2 as the government’s deadline to end the Marawi seige launched by the Maute Group more than a week ago. Lorenzana is the Martial Law administrator.

Padilla made clear that deadlines are “relative to the amount of resistance that still exists and the threat in the area.”

“It was a deadline that was set forth and provided by the Secretary of National Defense so we can aim for it. But the final decision actually rests on the ground commander,” he added. (Genalyn D. Kabiling)

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