The Battle of Marawi: From the eyes of the former Joint Task Force Marawi commander

Taken from the book, Marawi and Beyond. Published 2018 by the Operations Research Center, Philippine Army

No one wants to fight a war on their own shores. No one wants terrorists to gain a foothold in their own country. The Battle of Marawi was not expected. When we found out that Isnilon Hapilon was in a safehouse at Bgy Basak, Malutlot, Marawi City, on the 23rd of May 2017, soldiers raided the premises.

Isnilon Hapilon was largely unknown to the civilian world prior to that day, however, as the hours of the clock struck by, he was named the ‘Emir in Southeast Asia’, and the recognized leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), commonly referred to locally as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Isnilon Hapilon’s local connections in Mindanao were terrorist groups allied with ISIS: the Maute Group, the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and the Ansar Khalifa Philippines. In the Battle of Marawi all these terrorist groups were part of the seige that backed Isnilon Hapilon and destroyed Marawi City.

Image from Marawi and Beyond Book Series

Day by day, as the battle progressed, present doctrines, protocols, procedures, human resource, equipment, and practically the entire resources of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) were put to the test. On the spot innovations, interventions, command guidelines, and the like were fashioned to try to overrun the enemy, while prioritizing the safety of trapped civilians, hostages, places of worship, vital installations, homes, and others.

Joint Task Force (JTF) Marawi saw to it that the combined units operating in Marawi City were put under one command, in order to synchronize and coordinate movement, solidify action, hasten mobility, and facilitate a smooth interaction between the AFP, Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) units.

Lt. Gen. Bautista, together with the JTF Marawi officers, personally visited and checked the main status of the main battle area in Marawi City. (Image from Marawi and Beyond Book Series)

The siege of the City of Marawi is a part of our history that we do not want revisited; nevertheless, it must be properly documented for historical purposes. It is our fervent hope that through these publications, Filipinos will come together and go all out to help our Muslim brothers and sisters, recover, rebuild, and return to normalcy.

The attainment of peace in the free world is every leader’s elusive dream. It is one of the most challenging tasks for both the military and police organizations and their personnel. Our institutions must evolve and seek to better themselves in keeping with the demands of the times and new terms of engagement.

DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista was the former Commander of the Joint Task Force Marawi/1st Infantry (Tabak) Division that took the lead in the Battle of Marawi. He was later appointed as the Commanding General of the Philippine Army.

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