PALAYAN CITY, Nueva Ecija - President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday the government is not yet keen on waging war against the Maute terrorist group that has occupied parts of Butig, Lanao del Sur Saturday.
Despite Maute group's occupation of the old Butig town hall, the President said he is keen on resolving the conflict through peaceful means.
"Kaibiganin natin para walang gulo," Duterte told reporters after he attended the inauguration of the mega drug rehabilitation and treatment center inside Fort Magsaysay.
(Let's befriend them so there won't be any conflict.)
Cabinet Secretary Leoncio "Jun" Evasco Jr. backed the President's decision saying the government "do not have reasons to seek enemies."
"Government now will always do everything to make friends with everybody," Evasco told ABS-CBN News.
Duterte is expected to arrive in Marawi Tuesday evening and visit injured PSG members.
Government troops in recent days have ramp up their offensive operations against the lawless groups, killing at least 19 bandits.
It is not unusual for the Mindanaoan president to extend olive branches to lawless elements, as he argued that there is no point to wage wars.
"I can burn Jolo. I can burn Sulu, but what would it bring us?" Duterte said in his speech, referring to the strife-torn island in Mindanao.
He recently offered to hold talks with the Abu Sayyaf Group to finally end the group's criminal activities, even as security analysts said that such a thing is hard, if not impossible.