DAVAO CITY – President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday defended Islamic militants both in Mindanao and in the Middle East, saying these are people who were “radicalized just because they were pushed to the wall.”
In his speech before Muslims at the Hariraya Eid’l Fitr at the SMX Convention Center, Duterte criticized some Western countries for the bloody armed conflict in Iraq, Syria, and Libya.
He blamed the United States and the United Kingdom for pulling some Muslim nations apart.
“Ayaw lang mag-admit nitong Britain at America, they forced their way into Iraq and killed Saddam (Hussein). Look at Iraq now. Look what happened to Libya. Look at what happened to Syria. Nauubos ang tao doon, pati bata, because they were pushed to the wall for the failed promises,” Duterte said.
“It is not the Middle East exporting terrorism in America. America imported terrorism. Sinira nila ang Middle East e. Sino ba naman si Saddam? He was one dictator but he was in firm control of the country,” he added.
Duterte underscored that after several years of investigation, authorities found that “there was no legal basis to declare war against Iraq.”
Meantime, Duterte, the Philippines' first president from Mindanao, also described the Abu Sayyaf militants, who are also engaged in kidnapping and banditry, as a group "driven to desperation."
“You never heard me say mga criminal (ang Abu Sayyaf). It is a different set-up because these are the guys who were driven to desperation,” Duterte said.
“From Nur (Misuari) to the ARMM [Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao], there was no sufficient semblance of governance, that is why they are pushed to the wall, then they became radicalized,” Duterte said.
The 71-year-old commander-in-chief also said in jest that he hopes that the Abu Sayyaf will not abduct him when he goes to Jolo, Sulu to have a dialogue with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari.
“Wag sana ako i-kidnap ng Abu Sayyaf, wala naman akong perang maibigay sa kanila,” Duterte said.
Aside from poor governance, Duterte said forced religious conversion may have been a factor for these Muslim separatist movements.
“Over decades, by force, naging Christians yung mga Malay brothers. It was religion that was thrown down their throats” after Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived in the country in the 16th century, Duterte said.
“Before the coming of religion, we were all natives of these sultanates, then because of colonialism (we were divided),” he added.