Marawi death toll tops 500

MANILA, Philippines – The death toll from 48 days of fighting in Marawi City has breached the 500-mark, said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday, July 10.

As of Sunday, July 9, government troops have been able to kill 379 of the terrorists who attempted to take over the Lanao del Sur capital on May 23.

At least 89 soldiers and policemen have also been killed in the clashes, while 39 civilians were killed by members of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups, according to the AFP.

More than 1,723 civilians – either those trapped in the combat zone or those who were taken hostage – have been rescued by both government and non-governmental bodies. Military and police have recovered 451 firearms from the terror groups.

Over 400,000 people have been forced to flee their homes since the clashes began.

The attempted takeover of Marawi City – and the threat of the Islamic State (ISIS) – prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to place the entire Mindanao island under martial law. He also suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

Both the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups have pledged allegiance to ISIS. Isnilon Hapilon, an Abu Sayyaf leader, is supposedly the appointed "emir" of ISIS in the Philippines.

While the military has refused to give a new deadline for the conflict after missing several self-imposed deadlines in the past, it is already starting to help plan Marawi City's rehabilitation.

The AFP earlier announced it would be sending military engineers to map out the rebuilding of the city.

"In the coming days, we hope to show to the public the artist's rendition of temporary shelters to be constructed consistent with Maranao culture," the military said on Monday.

Under the 1987 Constitution, martial law stays in place for a maximum of 60 days or July 22 in this case. If Duterte wants an extension, he must get the approval of Congress, which is composed mostly of his allies. The Supreme Court earlier upheld Duterte's basis for declaring martial law.

Military and police have yet to finalize their recommendation on whether martial law should be extended or not. Duterte himself, however, has said that he will not be lifting military rule before he makes his second State of the Nation Address on July 24.

A key Duterte ally, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, said he wants martial law to stay in place until 2022 or the end of Duterte's term. But AFP spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said on Monday that a 5-year extension of martial law might be too long. Some of Alvarez's fellow lawmakers also slammed his proposal. – Rappler.com