There will be no compromise with terrorists, President Rodrigo Duterte said on Saturday, as he vowed to extinguish the Islamic State (IS)-linked Maute fighters who have occupied Marawi City for more than a month.
In remarks during the celebration of the 50th founding anniversary of Davao del Norte province, the President said government forces would not leave Marawi City “until the last terrorist is executed.”
“So every time I read the casualties, parang [it’s like] it’s very unsettling, `di ko malaman kung anong gawin ko [I don’t know what to do], but I cannot stop the fighting because I will never, never, never compromise with terrorism,” he said.
The President said he would never allow the country to be destroyed by terrorists.
“Terrorism, I cannot accept it. You are living witnesses to what is unfolding in the Middle East. There’s no redeeming values I know…Why would we allow you to destroy our country like that?” Duterte said.
“My only consoling issue there is that I have to do it because it is my constitutional duty to preserve and defend the Filipino people,” he added.
Duterte made the statement a few days after Abdullah Maute, one of the two brothers leading the terrorist Maute group, reportedly offered to release a Catholic priest, in exchange for the freedom of his parents and relatives who are under the government’s custody.
Last week, Assistant Secretary Dickson Hermoso of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said eight Muslim religious leaders were able to talk with Abdullah Maute, discussing the possibility of the IS-linked terrorists laying down arms.
The Palace, however, clarified that the meeting was not sanctioned by the government.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines earlier said the priest being held captive by the Maute group in Marawi City was still alive.
Fr. Chito Suganob, vicar general of the prelature of Marawi, was kidnapped by the Maute gunmen as they laid siege to the city.
Government forces later arrested Cayamora and Farhana Maute, parents of brothers Omar and Abdullah, and alleged supporters and financiers of the Marawi attack.
The attack on Marawi City last May 23 forced the President to declare martial law over Mindanao and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, allowing warrantless arrests.
The five-week battle in Marawi City has so far claimed the lives of 51 civilians, 317 terrorists, and 82 government troops.