Rodrigo Duterte

Duterte dismayed by BIFF occupation: ‘You can demand my resignation’

Pia Ranada
Duterte dismayed by BIFF occupation: ‘You can demand my resignation’

VIOLENCE IN MINDANAO. President Rodrigo Duterte gives a speech at Camp Siongco, Maguindanao.

RTVM screenshot

But the President also issues a warning to the BIFF and other groups that, if violence persists, he would 'be forced to do what is necessary'

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte says he was “moved to tears” by recent violence in the Bangsamoro region and even said he might consider resigning if attacks by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) persist.

“If I cannot at least [bring] the barest mininum of a peaceful place then I have no reason to stay. It would be a failure, a real failure. I must be frank enough to say, you know, sorry. Sinubukan ko lahat, hindi kumubra (I tried everything, it didn’t work),” said Duterte on Tuesday, May 11.

He was speaking at Camp Siongco in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao three days after a faction of the Islamist militant group BIFF occupied a market in Datu Paglas town of that province for several hours.

Speaking of his horror upon hearing about the occupation, Duterte said, “Is that the kind of government I can give to the people? I said if I can’t hack it, then you can demand my resignation and maybe I will consider it. If I can’t do it, replace me.”

In the audience were Bangsamoro Interim Chief Minister Murad Ebrahim, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief General Cirilito Sobejano, Philippine National Police chief General Guillermo Eleazar, and Maguindanao local officials.

A warning

But Duterte’s speech did not come without a warning to the BIFF, similar violent groups, and anyone who would help them commit acts of terrorism.

“If they continue to kill civilians and if they continue to take hostage of a town, if they continue to kill my soldiers, I will be forced to do what is necessary,” said the President.

“If I give the order, I will no longer withdraw it. I will not wait for the next President to do what he wants, kasi gusto ko talaga tapusin itong masasama (because I really want to finish off this evil),” continued Duterte.

Any “all-out offensive” he would declare would be “bloody.” Duterte also warned people not to give the BIFF or other groups “sanctuary.” He is sure to hear about it.

“Please do not give them sanctuary, provide them a place to stay. Do not wait that I will call you to Malacañang. There are intelligence reports,” said Duterte.

The Bangsamoro Transition Authority, or the interim government of the Bangsamoro region, is set to present to Duterte their plan to curb violence in their area of jurisdiction, particularly the infamous SPMS Box where the BIFF maintains a strong presence.

Duterte, in the same speech, said he devoted time and effort to ensuring the creation of the BARMM, believing it could be a solution to Mindanao violence. (READ: Halfway into term, Duterte delivers on Bangsamoro promise)

“You just don’t know the endless meetings, mga ilang tasang kape maubos ko noon (how many cups of coffee I finished back then) just to talk, to convince, to support BARMM,” said the President.

The BIFF is a group founded by Ameril Umbra Kato that broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The MILF now leads the interim Bangsamoro government and is under pressure to bring reforms and development to the region before its term ends in 2022.

Duterte appealed to persons who have a direct line to BIFF members to convince them to stop the violence.

“If there is still a chance for you to cross the line and talk to them, and tell them, not now. Do not commit atrocities that can no longer be stomached,” said Duterte. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.