MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday beseeched authorities of the Bangsamoro region to help the government deal with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and prevent an "all out offensive" that he said would be bloody.
About 20 BIFF members over the weekend occupied a market in Datu Paglas, Maguindanao province in the Bangsamoro region, forcing residents to flee. BIFF members shot it out with soldiers, who later drove away the militants.
"I am moved to tears to see what is really happening now. It's pure carnage, and the ultimate beneficiaries of the violence created here are the civilians," said Duterte.
BIFF militants "continue to burn, ambush, [and] detonate bombs" in attacks that "cannot go on," he told leaders, policemen, and soldiers of the Bangsamoro region in a speech at a military camp in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.
"Ngayon, nagmamakaawa ako sa inyo, tulungan n'yo ako because otherwise, if I give the order for an all out offensive, it will be bloody and it will be sad."
"Ayaw kong pumatay ng Muslim, ayaw kong pumatay ng Kristiyanos. Gusto kong manahimik ang buhay natin sa mundong ito," he added.
(I am begging you, help me, because otherwise, if I give the order for an all out offensive, it will be bloody and it will be sad. I don't want to kill Muslims, I don't want to kill Christians. I just want our lives in this world to be peaceful.)
Duterte said that while he was "avoiding the situation where things will go out of control," the military would question his stance if more soldiers die.
"It's life that is involved here... Kung hindi ko mapigilan and there will be an all offensive, iyan na ang problema. And if I give the order, I will no longer withdraw it," he said.
(If I can't stop it and there will be an an all offensive, that is the problem.)
The BIFF is a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, opposing the latter's decision to pursue peace talks with the government that eventually led to the creation of the Bangsamoro political entity.
Duterte in 2019 ordered an all-war against terror groups, following twin bombings in a church in Jolo, Sulu that killed around 20 people.
The first President from Mindanao, Duterte brokered the creation of the Muslim-led Bangsamoro region, which authorities had hoped would boost peace after decades of fighting that killed thousands and mired the area in poverty.
Later this month, the Philippines will mark the 4th anniversary of the Marawi siege involving the Islamic State-inspired Maute group and some Abu Sayyaf members, which led to a nearly 5-month fierce battle.
The war left nearly a thousand militants dead, including Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who was regarded as the emir of Islamic State in Southeast Asia, as well as Maute Group leaders Omar and Abdullah Maute. More than 160 soldiers and policemen, and 47 civilians also died.
It displaced more than 350,000 people and severely destroyed the city, especially its commercial center. The cost of damages was estimated at P11.5 billion pesos, while economic loss is P6 billion.
- with report from Kyodo News