The President set foot in Marawi around 2 in the afternoon, and proceeded to the 103rd Brigade "amidst the sound of gun and artillery fires on the background," according to Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Eduardo Año.
AFP chief Año reported that the President set foot in Marawi City to fulfill his promise visit despite the ongoing firefight and while government troops launched an assault from the other end of Mapandi Bridge where the fiercest and most rigid exchange of bullets take place as the area is heavily defended by the Maute group and other terrorist groups' fighters.
|Photo from Inquirer|
According to reports, the visit was not publicly announced by the Malacañang Palace.
Año added that upon the arrival of the president, he was then given the latest updates of the Marawi situation, including the ongoing operations at the Tactical Command Post of Joint Task Force Marawi. The President was also shown the 400 claimed firearms of the terrorist groups since the start of the battle.
Moreover, he said that the President took the opportunity to shake hands and interacted with the soldiers in Marawi. Although deemed successful by the AFP chief, he admitted that they struggled to keep the President and his staff safe in the middle of that dangerous situation.
"Just a minute before the choppers landed, there were a few sniper shots coming from unknown direction that targeted the landing zone area," Año said.
Duterte said that he wanted to be with the soldiers while they are participating in an ongoing battle with the bandits.
"I have to be here to visit you. Your life (referring to the soldiers) is not less important that mine. ALl of our lives are equally important. We are here to die for our country," Duterte addressed the soldiers of Task Force Marawi during his recent visit.
Duterte told the soldiers that he really felt bad every time he read the daily updates from about the soldiers and their situation in Marawi.
"I grieve every time I learn that soldiers and civilians die everyday in Marawi," Duterte said.
Colonel Edgard Arevalo, from the AFP Public Affairs office said that the recent visit of the President did a great boost in the morale of the soldiers still fighting against the terrorist groups.
"Not only was it elating for our soldiers, airmen, sailors, and Marines, it was an unspoken statement of a Commander-in-Chief willing to risk his life and limb just to be with his men at the thick of the conflict," he said.
The visit lasted for four hours.
When the President finally flew out of the area, Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera, the spokesperson of the Joint Task Force Marawi shared with the media that the President personally thanked the soldiers.
"We saw how the President supported us in this campaign. He showed how he supported our soldiers, who have been fighting for Marawi," Herrera said.
President Duterte has long been planning to give the soldiers fighting in Marawi a visit but was not able to until now because of his tight schedule.
Recent statistics report of the Marawi situation stated that already 99 soldiers have been killed since the start of the battle on May 23, while around 900 have been wounded.