MANILA-- The Philippines will fight for peace, for now, President Rodrigo Duterte said Sunday following twin attacks in the southern Philippines that left at least 15 people dead.
The 75-year-old leader knelt and kissed the ground of the blast site in Jolo, Sulu for soldiers and Filipinos whose lives were "snuffed out for no reason at all." He also offered flowers and led the candle-lighting ceremony.
Duterte said last week's attacks "will only further strengthen our resolve to crush the lawless elements behind this cowardly act," noting that the government will fight.
"If we cannot really agree then we fight. And we fight hard hanggang magkaubusan na. Maybe by that time, pag ubos na ang lahat, wala nang gyera," he said in an address to state troops.
(We fight hard until everyone is gone. Maybe by that time, when everyone is gone, there will be no more war.)
"In the meantime, we fight. I cannot offer anything. I have a mandate. I don’t only order, but impose duties," he added.
Last week's twin explosions in Jolo were the first public bombings since President Duterte signed into law the anti-terror bill in July.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the military earlier identified as suspects the Indonesian widow of a 2019 Filipino suicide bomber and the wife of an Abu Sayyaf leader.
Duterte's visit to Jolo on Sunday is a rare deviation from his normal trips between Malacañang and his hometown Davao City since the lockdowns in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first leader from Mindanao, Duterte said peace will be a subject of discussion "in God's time."
"In God’s time, we will talk about peace. If it is hatred, it cannot be stopped anymore. It is an impossible dream. It is an unreachable star. But it behooves upon us even as leaders, even to try, to talk, even as we wage war," he said.
He also urged the military to "think about peace" even as they wage war against state enemies.
"May dalawang taon pa ako hindi ko alam kung ano magawa ko pa talaga. When you go on fighting, may galit na yan, may sugat sa puso, it would take more than a generation to do this," he said in his address to soldiers in Jolo, Sulu.
(I have two more years and I don't know what I can do. When you go on fighting, there is anger. There is a scar in your heart, it would take more than a generation to do this.)
"I hope one of my children can do something of this Moro and Christian problem," he added.