PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday that he is not keen to declare war against the Maute bandits in the southern Philippines but warned them to stop their unlawful activities.
In a chance interview during his visit to Camp Evangelista Station in Cagayan de Oro City, Duterte did not discount possibility that he may be provoked to launch an all-out war against Maute, should the group continue to fight with the government.
Duterte made the statement after visiting the members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) wounded in a roadside improvised explosive device (IED) blast in Marawi City Tuesday, November 29.
He earlier told Moro leaders to help by convincing the members of the supposedly Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis)-influenced Maute group to stop fighting the government.
“Ang Isis ay hindi sumusunod. Mayron silang sarili and the Tausiogs and Maranaw take orders from the outside just to fight. Hindi ito matatapos," Duterte told local government officials including officials in Butig.
"For those who fight with government don't wait for the hands of the clock reach at the 25th hour and bells will toll. I can be harsh so I could command obedience as I can and I am not afraid. Ang problemang ito ay hindi naman ito madala sa tapang pero there is always a time to protect everybody," he said.
“Here in Maute, I said, I do not want to declare war against anyone but I told them that they have to stop. I do not want to end up fighting. So I am doing everything to prevent war,” the President said.
“I am not threatening them. What I am merely saying is I do not want to wage war but do not force my hand into it,” he added.
On Tuesday, Duterte said befriending Maute, a group linked to Jihadist militant group ISIS or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, is a solution he thinks could maintain peace and order in the country.
Duterte, however, said that he is not preparing a unilateral ceasefire with Maute and stressed that his order to the military is to continue its ongoing operations against the bandit group.
"What is there to stop? No one shows sincerity there so the fight goes on," he said. (Sunnex)