CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines >> Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday he will go ahead with a planned trip to a southern city against the advice of security officials after an advance team of presidential guards was wounded by a roadside bomb in the volatile region.
Military spokesman Col. Edgard Arevalo said seven presidential guards, including an officer, were injured by the bomb as they traveled in a military convoy to an army camp in Marawi city, in an attack by suspected Muslim militants.
Two other soldiers based in the south were also wounded in the attack, police said, adding that some of the soldiers managed to return fire and wounded some of the militants.
The injured members of the Presidential Security Group were airlifted to a hospital.
Duterte said he wants to take the same route as the injured guards, adding in jest that the vice president could take his place if something happens to him.
“The advice was to postpone. I said, ‘no, I’ll go there and if possible take the same route,’” Duterte, who is known for his brashness and foul language, said in a speech in northern Nueva Ecija province.
“Maybe we can have a little gunfight here, gunfight there,” he said. “If I can’t make it … that’s why we have a vice president, Leni Robredo. We can have a gentle president in exchange for the discourteous mouth.”
Duterte plans to travel to Marawi to meet military officials overseeing an offensive against local Islamic State group sympathizers in Butig town. The military says about 40 militants have been killed and several soldiers have been injured in the offensive.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he suspects the militants attacked the convoy to divert the military’s focus from the offensive, and they probably were not aware that the presidential guards were on board.