MARAWI CITY – Dozens of soldiers and policemen fighting local ISIS in Marawi City in southern Philippines have laid down their rifles and armed themselves with new weapons – broom sticks, grass cutters and paint – and launched a war in a new mission and that is to clean the grimy and ruined streets of the besieged city.
Utilizing all the Civil Military Operations units available, some 80 cops and soldiers started tidying what was left of the fighting after Daesh-inspired terror group stormed and destroyed the city since May this year.
Dubbed as “Kaplimpiyo tano ko Kalilintad” which literally means “Maglinis tayo para sa Kapayapaan”, the troops cleaned several roads in the villages of Emie, Matampay, Sarimanok, Marawi and Malalat which had been cleared and taken over by security forces from the militants, although sporadic clashes still continue in other parts of the city.
The clean-up drive was initiated by the Joint Task Force Tabang headed by Colonel Thomas Sedano. “We will do it little by little since we lack manpower for the purpose, however, we will make sure that these streets will not look as grubby and filthy as how it appeared to be before we started cleaning up,” Sedano said, adding, “our primary intention is to avoid an epidemic that could plague our communities by the time residents of Marawi will be allowed to come back.”
Aside from the filthy streets, the soldiers and policemen also cleaned mosques in the villages of Lilod and Tulali. Over a dozen local policemen and a team of soldiers cleaned and made minor repairs of the Saad Huzam Almusairi Masjid. The clean-up drive in mosques was an initiative of the Joint Task Group PNP headed by Senior Superintendent Rolando Anduyan.
“We deployed our Maranao policemen for this purpose to specifically address cultural sensitivity issues. They are the proper persons who know how to do the job without violating religious practices and beliefs,” Anduyan said.
Brigadier General Joselito Bautista, commander of the Joint Task Force Marawi, said the clean-up campaign will continue in areas under the control of the military as part of its civic and humanitarian efforts. “We will continue doing this in partnership with the police so that mosques that have been preserved will be able to cater Muslim believers immediately by the time we give a green light for soldiers to go back to their homes,” he said.
Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez, chief if the Western Mindanao Command, said as fighting continues in downtown Marawi, thousands of soldiers and policemen are also engaged in different rehabilitation projects that are already underway. “Your uniformed troops will be continually involved in rehabilitation activities within and outside Marawi City. We know that people are already asking when they can come back to their homes, we hope they will understand that their soldiers and policemen are doing our best to finish the fighting the soonest so that they can go home finally,” he said.
Galvez said the activities intend to prepare the area for the return of civilians displaced by war. “We hope the clean-up drive will somehow alleviate how they feel when they go back to a place which was torn by war and fighting,” he said.
Much of Marawi had been destroyed by air strikes and artillery fire, especially in areas where militants have taken cover with their hostages. (Moh Saaduddin and Rhoderick Beñez)
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