MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday took back his earlier invitation of a dialogue with terrorists laying siege to Marawi City, saying his government will only hold talks with non-violent Moro groups.
“I will not talk to anybody. I will not talk to the terrorists,” Duterte said in a speech in Davao City, as he pledged to pour significant government resources in fighting the militants who have laid siege to the city of about 200,000 people.
Duterte last week placed Mindanao under martial law after local terrorist group Maute engaged government troops in a gun battle. The armed clashes were triggered by state forces’ failed attempt to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon.
The President took back his offer of dialogue as he expressed concerns over the growing threat of the Islamic State-influenced terrorists in Mindanao.
He said the radicalism being espoused by the terrorist groups threatens to “supplant the Filipino way of life.”
“They are trying to correct a way of living for everybody and they do it by killing people invoking the name of God and that is a very terrible ideology,” he said.
“It does not know anything except to waste human lives.”
The week-old crisis in Marawi has claimed the lives of 129 people, 89 of whom were supposedly terrorists.
Analysts and military officials say Maute’s attack on Marawi is their way of getting the attention of the ISIS, which the government says is seeking to establish a wilayat (province) in the Philippines.
DUTERTE: PNP, AFP COMPELLED ME TO DECLARE MARTIAL LAW
Duterte also sought to debunk claims that he declared martial law in Mindanao without fully consulting his security team.
This, as Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana admitted during a security briefing at the Senate that the military could solve the Marawi City crisis even without the declaration of martial law.
But Duterte said, the military and police gave him “sufficient information” which compelled him to declare martial law.
“I asked them, ‘Are we already in the critical level?’And there was an almost a unison and redundant even statements that delikado tayo sa Mindanao given the practice of the ISIS in the Middle East,” he said.
The President said, he will only lift martial law in Mindanao “once order is restored and... upon the advice of the military and the police.”
Lorenzana has since explained that Mindanao needed martial law.