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Duterte lauds US help vs militants in Marawi

By: AFP and Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos

President Duterte, a fierce critic of the United States, is now singing Washington’s praises for helping him fight pro-Islamic State group militants.

“There are so many factors involved. But I’d rather be friendly to them now,” Duterte told residents of Balangiga, Eastern Samar during a visit Thursday, according to an official transcript released Friday.

Islamic militants waving the black IS flag occupied the Marawi City on May 23, and have fought off a US-backed military assault for more than four months.

The US deployed a P-3 Orion spy plane and provided other intelligence inputs to the military and police trying to retake the city in fighting which has left more than 900 people dead.

“I would not say that they were our saviors, but they are our allies and they helped us. And even today, they have provided the crucial equipment to our soldiers in Marawi to fight the terrorists,” Duterte said.

“So without their help also, we would be having a hard time,” he said. “So we thank you.”

Meanwhile, Duterte has ordered the search for the descendants of the Balangiga tribesmen who fought the Americans in 1901 in recognition of their heroism 116 years ago.

Duterte renewed his call for the return of the Balangiga bells, relics which the American soldiers took as war booty after being ambushed by the tribesmen during the early 20th century.

According to Duterte, he is willing to confer the Order of Lapu-Lapu medals on each families who are descendants of the tribesmen if searching for them is still possible.