SULU - President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday appealed to Abu Sayyaf bandits to end violence in the south, adding that he is open for possible reconciliation talks with the terrorist group.
"Kung maghinto sila, I'm willing to go there, kung ano 'yung lugar nila, mag-usap tayo," he said during the activation of the 11th Infantry Division in Sulu.
The President said the bandits have been responsible for the soldiers' death in the Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi - Tawi (Basulta) area.
"I cannot allow my soldiers na ako ang commander-in-chief na namamatay, ina-ambush, and this has been going on for the last so many years... Sayang talaga ang buhay, napakasayang ng bala na puwede ko naman ipagbili o ipangtayo ng bahay," he said.
Duterte said he is also willing to talk with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari on reaching a possible agreement to achieve peace in Mindanao.
"We can talk anytime and let me know on what are his plans. The government would be willing to compromise or even reach an agreement that could give him dignity and integrity of Tausug, Yakan and all tribes here in this island," he said.
Lack of education, the President said, is one of the reasons why conflict in the south persists.
"What is really lacking, edukasyon ng mga Moro. For unless and until the Moro is educated in the proper way, to live in a world that we live, and to come to terms, kung ano ang realidad dito sa buhay natin ngayon. Then maybe, maybe with the mercy of Allah, makukuha natin," he said.
Duterte said some 15,000 sidearms will be distributed to soldiers. Scholarship and housing program will also be provided to them.
The 11th Infantry Division was activated to beef up the government's operations against terrorists in Sulu. - report from RJ Rosalado, ABS-CBN News