The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Saturday observed the commemoration of the liberation of Marawi, and said the crisis serves as a reminder that the anti-terrorism campaign should also include prevention, and not just be focused on combat.
"The Marawi Crisis reminds us that the vigorous campaign should not be focused only on combatting terrorism but more importantly in preventing the menace from invading our communities and cities," the AFP said in a statement.
The AFP said it is committed to continuing the fight against terrorism.
"The AFP joins the nation and our people in the continuing fight against terrorism. This is highlighted by the tragic beginning and end of the Siege of Marawi that we commemorate today," it said.
The military added that its Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism campaign "looks into sectors vulnerable to radicalism and violent extremism such as orphanages, schools, and evacuation centers, among others."
The AFP said it is working with the Department of Education, Department of Social Welfare and Development and local government units, among other government agencies, to empower them "to ward-off terrorists from encroaching into their domains."
"And these strong partnerships and collaborations have proven to be an effective deterrence against attempts by some individuals or groups with links to terrorists groups to radicalize and recruit members from those facilities," it added.
AFP chief General Gilbert Gapay honored soldiers who did their duty serving the nation, during the commemoration of the liberation of Marawi on Saturday held in the said city.
“I share the honor and glory of every soldier of the AFP in giving our snappiest salute to all our heroes, the sung and the unsung, for all that they have done in the fulfilment of their sworn duties to protect and serve our nation and our people. Their service and their sacrifice is a legacy that will live on forever,” Gapay said.
Also held on Saturday was the inauguration of Bonggolo Bridge, the groundbreaking of the proposed Bato Mosque, and wreath laying ceremony at the Heroes Memorial located at the Philippine Army's 103rd Brigade headquarters.
Bonggolo Bridge allowed soldiers to get into the battle field during the siege, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Carlito Galvez said.
“Had it not been for this bridge, it would have been very difficult for government forces to successfully carry out its mission. Today the Bonggolo Bridge will serve an entirely different purpose; it will help with social cohesion and mutual trust and understanding among residents,” he said in a video message.
Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamara thanked government troops for not giving up on the Maranao people even after the city's liberation.
“To the valiant and courageous men and women in uniform, who have fought and even laid down their lives so that the Philippine Flag could still fly high above and free in the flagpoles all over Marawi City, we owe it all to you. Three years on, we are still telling your family that your sacrifices have not been in vain,” he said.
Also present at the ceremonies in Marawi on Saturday were Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal Alonto Adiong Jr, BARMM Deputy Chief Minister and Marawi Special Committee Chairperson Ali Solaiman, and Task Force Bangon Marawi Chairman and Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development Secretary Eduardo Del Rosario.
The AFP said it is continuing its participation in the completion of various infrastructure projects inside Marawi's Most Affected Area.
Gapay also said the new anti-terrorism law will allow for better means to defend the country.
“We are hopeful to the good the Anti-Terrorism Law will bring. We’ve already lost too many lives, including innocent citizens who are victims of different terrorist acts. With the implementation of this law, we now have better means to defend the nation against threats to our peace,” he said.
In May 2017, the Maute group inspired by ISIS laid seige to Marawi City.
It took 21 weeks of unrelenting fighting by government troops to put an end to the siege, after the rebels' leaders, Omarkhayam Maute and Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, were killed.
—KG, GMA News