MANILA, Philippines – Talk to the terrorists behind the Marawi siege? He would never.
President Rodrigo Duterte emphasized this as he denied claims by Muslim leader Agakhan Sharief that he had asked an aide to set up talks between him and Maute Group leaders. Sharief made the claim in a Reuters report.
"No, I did not. He (Sharief) is a pretender. I’d never talk to terrorists, that's one. I would never talk to criminals and terrorists," said Duterte during a media interview on Thursday, July 6.
Efforts to talk to terrorists might have come from Moro separatist groups like the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or Moro National Liberation Front, but he never took such an initiative.
"The MI(LF), MN(LF) probably started initiatives there but if it comes from me, I ask from the criminals and terrorsits, that's impossible," he said.
He would also not consider talking with the terror group because of the many government personnel they have killed during the fighting in Marawi.
"I have lost a lot of soldiers and police. They shouldn’t take me as a fool," he said.
As of Thursday, July 6, the Palace said 85 government personnel have been killed in action in Marawi.
But Duterte had, at one point, said he was open to talking to certain terrorists and even appointed a government official to send them his "message".
Just 3 days after the Marawi siege broke out, the President told troops in Iligan City that he was willing to "talk peace" with terrorists who are not hardliners.
“But if they want to talk, I would be most thankful to Allah if we can talk peace. If they want to fight, we can’t do anything. Go for it,” he said in his May 26 speech.
Over a week later, however, he rejected an offer from Farhana Maute – mother of Omar and Abdullah Maute, leaders of the Maute Group – to talk. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.