Even if he is not battling a serious disease as is strongly rumoured, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had good reason to disappear last week between his no-show for the country’s Independence Day on June 12 and the celebration of Father's Day six days later.
A month into the siege of the country’s biggest Muslim city, Marawi -- in Duterte's home province of Mindanao -- by groups that have aligned themselves with the so-called Islamic State (also called ISIS), the country’s military has been unable to seize back control (they have revised the completion date for this twice). It’s now a vague “we are confident we will accomplish our military objective soon”. Duterte has refused to negotiate, preferring to kill and bomb his way to what will be a very hollow victory.
The battle for Marawi is a very different nightmare to that the one IS has visited upon the Middle East. At the centre of the Marawi conflict is the sprawling Maute family, infamous, until recent months, not for its adherence to archaic fundamentalism or any zealous promotion of sharia law, but for its criminal enterprises and ruthlessness in a region that that has, for generations, been rent by vicious clan warfare, replete with revenge killings.