Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has appeared in public after five days of absence due to reportedly bad health.
In a statement to Philippine troops fighting the ISIS insurgency in the southern Philippine city of Marawi he said,
“The fighting is going on, but it’s winding up.
It’s difficult to fight those who are willing to die. They have corrupted the name of God in the form of religion to kill many innocent people, for nothing”.
He confirmed that the current death toll from the fighting is as follows:
–59 Philippine soldiers
–26 Philippine civilians
Many expect these figures to rise before this particular front in the fight officially ceases.
Many figures in the Philippine opposition, those in the Liberal Party in particular have been calling for Duterte’s resignation over his decision to put the southern Philippine Island of Mindanao under martial law, Duterte continues to defend his decision saying,
“If that rebellion burns Mindanao and the other parts of the Philippines, then I’ll be forced to declare martial law again – this time I would do it on my own to preserve my nation. I will not consult anybody and there is no telling when it would end”.
“The terrorists are committing rebellion, the rebels are committing rebellion. What do you want? That they burn half of Mindanao before we call it a true-blue rebellion? It’s crazy”.
Many have feared that the political pressure including many alleged conspiracies against Duterte have taken a toll on the leader. He responded to these questions in a humble yet partly ambiguous manner stating,
“Do not worry (about my health). My state of health is immaterial. There is the vice president who will take over”.
There remains a danger that Duterte’s strong leadership could be the first political casualty of a war against ISIS that many politicians have opportunistically used to try and weaken their popular political rival.