By Czarina Nicole Ong
The battle was won but the war is not over.
This was the message of former senator Juan Ponce Enrile as he praised President Rodrigo Duterte for making the right call in extending martial law in Mindanao even after the government succeeded in its campaign against the Maute brothers.
The Marawi seige started on May 23, 2017 when Omar Maute and Isnilon Hapilon, who are affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, attacked the city.
“Marawi was just a battle,” Enrile said during an ambush interview conducted at the Sandiganbayan. “The fact that the government has succeeded in controlling the situation in that battle has not solved the problem. The problem is still there.”
Human rights activists have demanded that the government relinquish its hold of the city after the Maute brothers were killed. Many civilians have even complained that they have received harsh and unfair treatment from the Philippine Marines, who are intent on separating true civilians from terrorists.
But Enrile said that terrorist activities would run rampantly again if the government loses its grip on Mindanao. “Don’t kid yourselves, if you do not have a system to control the situation it will explode again. The President was correct,” he said.
Enrile was at the anti-graft court’s Third Division on Friday due to his pre-trial hearing. He is facing a plunder charge in connection with the P172-million priority development assistance fund (PDAF) scam, which reportedly went to the fake non-government organizations owned by Janet Lim Napoles.
The issue during the hearing was the marking of exhibits, which was not yet finished. When asked about the case, Enrile refused to make any comment. “I will not make a judgment. It’s improper for me to make a judgment,” he said.