PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte never intends to spark outrage in his previous pronouncements regarding the supposed fealty of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) with local extremist groups in the Philippines, Malacañang said on Saturday.
This was what Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella had to say after American-based newspaper New York Times partly blamed Duterte on the growing tension between security forces and Islamist fighters in the southern Philippines.
“It is really best if we look at the whole picture. First and foremost, the intention of the President is peace within our borders. Peace, especially within Mindanao. Let’s remember that he ran for president because he wants peace in Mindanao,” Abella told state-run dzRB.
“Frankly speaking, the President’s main interest to ensure the Filipinos’ safety, most especially the Christians and Muslims. He’s not uncompromising. The context here is always the public safety. It is always the public interest,” he added.
In an article published on June 15, the NY Times’ Editorial Board said “Duterte’s braggadocio is partly to blame for the escalation of the conflict” in Mindanao.
The NY times said the Isis had taken advantage to forge an alliance with local militant groups in Mindanao while the Chief Executive keeps on harping on their terror activities.
It added that the “successful” attempts of Isis to occupy the island of Mindanao “threatens the security of the entire region,” thus called for the Philippine government’s peace negotiation with the militant groups.
“The extent to which Isis has succeeded is now alarmingly evident, as a pitched battle between Philippine troops and Islamist militants for control of the largely Muslim city of Marawi enters its fourth week,” the NY Times said.
“The most urgent need now is to ratchet down the fight in Marawi and press Mr. Duterte to restart the negotiations with militant groups,” it added.
Abella said the President had attempted to hold reconciliatory talks with the militants but the number of government troops killed in the ongoing battle in Marawi City had triggered him to withdraw his peace offer with them.
Duterte earlier appealed to Maute members to instead negotiate with the Philippine government rather than engage in a firefight with security forces. He, however, cancelled his plan for peace negotiation as he lamented the increasing death toll on Marawi crisis.
“He (Duterte) was quite open. He was asking them (extremists) not to wreak havoc. He appealed that to them. But their actuations continue. So he said, ‘I will no longer talk to you,’” Abella said.
“So let us give the President enough credit that he was not picking a fight. Other people do not know that, especially those who are merely listening to the media. They just listen to what they want to hear,” he added. (SunStar Philippines)