MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday struck a conciliatory tone with the Abu Sayyaf Group as he sought for long-lasting peace in Mindanao.
“My message to the Abu Sayyaf is: I come in peace. Balita ko galit sila sa akin. Eh bakit kayo magalit sa akin? Ano bang ginawa ko sa Moro para magalit kayo?” Duterte said in a speech during his visit to victims of a fire in Zamboanga City.
(My message to the Abu Sayyaf is: I come in peace. I heard you were mad at me. Why would you be mad at me? What did I do to the Moros for you to be mad at me?)
Duterte criticized the group’s kidnapping activities, saying he would impose taxes on the ransom being paid to Abu Sayyaf bandits if he could.
“Sana mahinto na… huwag naman masyadong cruelty kasi hindi tayo ganun. Tayong mga Malay, hindi tayo ganun. We are not as vicious as the Arabs. Ganun talaga… I’m not insulting the Arabs. Ganun talaga ang ano nila --- how they fight.”
(I hope this stops… don’t be too cruel because we are not like that. We Malays are not like that. We are not as vicious as the Arabs. That’s how it is… I’m not insulting the Arabs. That’s just how they fight.)
The President made the statement ahead of a possible visit to Jolo, Sulu which he revealed during his speech.
“Punta ako doon kasi bisitahin ko sila. Ngayon kung may mga Abu Sayyaf na ano, na alam ninyo sa kampo na may sugat. Sabihin ninyo, puntahan ko rin. Hindi, hindi ako nagloloko. Magdala lang ako ng mga civilian. Ano man makuha ninyo kung patayin ninyo ako? Sige nga,” he said.
(I will visit them there. Now, if there is a wounded Abu Sayyaf in a camp, tell me and I will visit him. I’m not kidding. I will bring civilians with me. What will they get if they kill me?)
“Pupunta man ako ng Jolo tapos patayin ninyo ako. For what? Anong makuha ninyo?”
(I will go to Jolo and you kill me? For what? What will you get?)
Abu Sayyaf began as a group with separatist aims but has turned to kidnapping, banditry, and terrorism.