The Battle of Marawi: The Commander’s Perspective

Posted 17th September 2018

On 6 September 2018, CMU-A hosted a delegation led by Lieutenant-General Rolando Joselito Bautista, Commanding General of the Philippine Army. CMU-A Head Prof Emil Bolongaita, in cooperation with the Philippine Consul-General in South Australia, Darryl Johnson, and the Philippine Embassy in Canberra, organised the event.

General Bautista, who was the overall commander of the Battle of Marawi immediately before assuming his current post, gave a presentation of the operations and outcomes of the attack of Islamic extremists in that historic city. The insurgency grabbed international attention as it represented a threat not only to the stability of the southern Philippines but also to the south-east Asian region.

For over 90 minutes, General Bautista held his audience spellbound as he recalled the events of the battle for Marawi following seizure of the city by IS militants in May 2017. There, in southern Mindanao, the Army faced an enemy using civilians as hostages and human shields and their taking advantage of Muslim holy places to launch their attacks. After five months of fighting, 87 civilians had died along with 168 soldiers and 947 militants.

General Bautista’s presentation used photographic and video images to place the audience right in the middle of conflict. The scenes of hostages being delivered direction-finding cell phones by drones were one of the most remarkable images among many. General Bautista spoke about the army’s commitment to start the community re-building effort from the time hostilities commenced. His message was that peace cannot come just from winning military battles; to win the war it is necessary to address the needs of the people as well. Hence the government’s challenge is to put in place appropriate policies and programs that will rebuild Marawi and repel the drivers of violence that culminated in that calamitous attack on the city.