Duterte points at Lorenzana for US presence in Marawi

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte said it was the Defense department that decided to seek help from the United States armed forces in the ongoing battle for Marawi City.

In a press briefing during a visit to wounded soldiers in Cagayan de Oro City today, Duterte said he did not know the US military was already in Marawi helping the Armed Forces of the Philippines fight the Maute and Abu Sayyaf terror groups.

“I am not aware of that until they arrived. When I declared martial law, I gave the power to the defense department,” the President said as he gestured at National Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana standing beside him.

Lorenzana was tapped by Duterte as martial law administrator shortly after he declared martial law in the entire Mindanao region on May 23, 2017.

Duterte said he preferred that the US stay out of the fighting but it was the defense department’s decision to tap them.

The Department of National Defense for its part said the US military is only providing “technical support” to the AFP and not one US soldier is involved in the fighting.

An instagram post by GMA reporter Raffy Tima today however showed three foreign-looking men in Marawi wearing tactical military gear.

“‪A day after the US embassy in Manila confirmed the PH government asked for assistance in fight vs Maute, these guys arrived in Marawi,” Tima posted.

Pro-American Filipino soldiers

Asked if American military presence in Marawi would compromise his announced independent foreign policy, Duterte said “Gusto ko nga sana, kasi may gyera e,” (I like to be independent, but there’s a war) adding the Philippine Army is pro-American.

“All of them, most of them, nag-schooling sa America. So, talaga, ang siyentimiyento nito, pro-American. Pro-American talaga ang mga sundalo natin. That I cannot deny,” Duterte said. (All of them, most of them, were schooled in America. So, really, their sentiment is pro-American. Our soldiers are pro-American. That I cannot deny.)

Duterte explained he does not have a quarrel with the American people, only with former US President Barack Obama and the US State Department.

Duterte said current US President Donald Trump is his friend.

Duterte said Marawi is close to being cleared of the Maute and ASG gunmen with only two buildings with snipers needing to be cleared. # (Raymund B. Villanueva/Featured image is screengrabbed from RTVM)