PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday denied reports that he was about to make a deal with the Islamic State (IS)-linked Maute group but aborted the plan.
“No, I did not. He is a pretender. I never talk to terrorists. I will never talk to criminals and to terrorists,” Duterte said during his visit at Camp Bahian in Malaybalay, Bukidnon.
He was referring to Agakhan Sharief, who claimed that the President wanted to enter into a deal with the Maute Group.
“But I would talk to revolutionaries who are imbued with a principle… kagaya nitong MI, MN (like the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Moro National Liberation Front). I talked to them because what drove them to fight government is the rising nationalism,” he added.
“We are here to preserve (peace) and I plead to the Moro people, who are my brothers, who are our brothers, we do not want to fight. We do not want to kill. And if we can just stop fighting, okay ako (that’s okay with me). But for those criminals, the terrorists, wala na (there’s no negotiating).”
The President said it would be impossible for him to ask to talk with criminals and terrorists.
“Marami na akong patay na sundalo pati pulis, huwag nila akong biruin na mag-istorya-istorya lang tayo (Many of my soldiers and policemen have been killed, so they better not joke with me,” he said.
“If there has to be peace, it would really be peace. Huwag mo akong laruin (Don’t play with me). Let us finish this once and for all,” he added.
The Palace also denied Sharief’s claim.
Agakhan Sharief, a Muslim leader, was quoted by Reuters as saying that after the attack on Marawi City, he was approached by a senior Duterte aide to use his connections with the Maute group’s leaders to start back-channel talks.
However, the process was halted when Duterte, in a May 31 speech, declared he “will not talk to terrorists,” Sharief claimed.
Palace Spokesman Ernesto Abella reiterated the Duterte government’s firm stance not to negotiate with terrorists.
“Let me be clear that the position of the Palace and the President is not to negotiate with terrorists including these local terrorist groups—which had intended to establish a state within the Philippine state, and to remove allegiance to the government of the Philippines and the Chief Executive of the City of Marawi and its residents,” Abella said.
He said the actions of the Maute group constituted rebellion “because they submit to a foreign leader and hold to a dangerous ideology that is inimical to the well-being of all Filipinos including Muslim Filipinos.”
Abella also said most Muslim Filipinos disagreed with the terrorists’ “extreme interpretation and application of the Muslim belief system.”
“Having said that, the President is serious about redressing the social injustice committed against Muslim Mindanao. He is committed to having the Bangsamoro Basic Law passed. The President intends this to be a vision of a federal form of government in the Philippines,” he added.
Abella was referring to the proposed fundamental law forming an autonomous Bangsamoro region being sought by rebels under the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which will replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.