Malacañang on Saturday gave assurance that the government will hold Abu Sayyaf rebels accountable for their atrocities.
The Palace issued the statement hours after President Rodrigo Duterte said he does not consider Abu Sayyaf members criminals.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella gave the assurance following Duterte, during theMindanao Hariraya Eid’l Fit’r gathering in Davao City, said he did not consider the Abu Sayyaf as a band of criminals because the group had been “driven to desperation.”
The President attributed the radicalization of some people in Mindanao to poor governance.
“I am not including Abu Sayyaf [in the definition of]criminality. You’ve never heard me say: ‘mga kriminal [they are crimimals]’,” Duterte said.
“It is a different set up there because these are the guys who were driven to desperation,” he added.
But Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte’s statement was taken out of context and that it does not mean that the government will no longer apprehend the terrorist group.
“Hindi po niya (Duterte) pinapalampas ‘yung mga ginawa nila, pero nilalagay lang po niya in context ‘yung mga, ‘yung kanilang pinaggagawa, that they were forced to desperation,” Abella said in a radio interview.
“Meron silang motive, kaya lang po they still have to be answerable for the actions,” he added.
The Abu Sayyaf had become infamous for kidnapping and executing hostages, bombings, and extortion activities.
Its gunmen kidnapped Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall in 2015 and beheaded them early this year.
The group freed another victim, Marites Flor, but it kept Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad as hostage.
Duterte said federalism will help resolve the various conflicts in Mindanao because it will give everyone there the same opportunities.
He gave assurances that he will keep his promise to bring peace to Mindanao within his term.
“It will not come overnight. Probably, it will be something about two to three years from now, but I assure you something will change before I end my term,” Duterte said.
The President also said there will be peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
“Simultaneous ang ating usapan with the [MILF] and [MNLF]. But I said, I assure you, if there’s no federalism, kung ayaw talaga ng the rest of the country [if the rest of the country disagrees], well then I said what you give to [MILF] must be given to the [MNLF]. I hope we can have peace in the land,” he said.
“Ready na kami sa aming group sa gobyerno [our group in the government is ready]to talk to the MILF,” Duterte added.
He likewise asked the New People’s Army to refrain from holding soldiers captive to ease tensions amid the looming resumption of peace talks between the government and the communist movement.