President Rodrigo Duterte seemed to be aware of a threat by the ISIS-linked Maute group to "burn" Marawi City as early as December 2016.
In his speech in Dec. 12, 2016 during the Wallace Business Forum dinner at Malacañan Palace, Duterte said the Maute group was willing to pull out of Lanao provided that government forces would stop the offensive.
"They are in there in the forest. I don’t know where and I said, they would stop fighting, provided we stop the offensive or not, they said that they will go down upon Marawi to burn the place," Duterte said.
The President dared the Maute group to "Go ahead, do it."
On May 23, members of the Maute group burned down several structures in the city including schools, the city jail and a Catholic church, prompting Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said the Maute group has killed 19 civilians and abducted several others, including a Catholic priest.
The AFP had also reported that 15 of its soldiers and three policemen have been killed since violence in the city broke out. More than 60 suspected Maute members have also been slain, the military added.
After meeting with security officials at the Senate on the implementation of the martial law, Sen. Francis Pangilinan said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenza told them the situation in Marawi City may normalize by Friday.
In his December 12 speech, Duterte also talked about narco-terrorism in the country and the possibility of the terror group ISIS reaching the Philippines and other parts of Asia, including Indonesia and Malaysia.
"The threat of drugs and terrorism is very real. If the ISIS loses the land mass and if they are driven out, they would start to spread around the world. And they have always dreamt of this caliphate in Southeast Asia and obviously, it’s Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines because of its Muslim population," he said.
The transcript of Duterte's speech during dinner with members of the Wallace Business Forum is available in the Presidential Communications Operations Office's website. —ALG, GMA News