Duterte warns of more extremism in Mindanao
President Rodrigo Duterte warned on Thursday more extremism in Mindanao if the government failed to present a "reasonable counter proposal" to the mainstream Muslim rebels to address the problem in the troubled island.
In a speech during the relaunching of the Press Briefing Area in Malacanang, Duterte said the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front of Nur Misuari have been talking with the government.
"They are cooperating with government, fighting alongside with government forces, but they are hoping that what they have been asking for centuries will be given," Duterte said.
But Duterte added, "If we fail to come up with a reasonable counter proposal, then I assure you that there will be fighting everywhere in Mindanao. For then, the mainstream rebel groups would now be joining with the extremist groups."
The Duterte administration has been pushing for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the shift of government to federal system.
"Now, we are on one side and Misuari has remained neutral but some of their rogue members are there fighting. But fundamentally, they are waiting for the word of (Al Haj Murad Ebrahim) and Nur Misuari," he said as he mistakenly mentioned late Hashim Salamat, predecessor of Murad.
"But if their common determination, their dream is --- ends in a failure or a disappointment, they will join together against the Republic of the Philippines," he added.
He said it was more likely that these Muslim groups would declare "an independent Mindanao."
"Remember that there are more Christians than the Muslim populations. But that’s not the point. The point is we are not ready to embark on another war again, this time on a large scale throughout Mindanao. tI just know what will happen," he explained.
"Because then if there is a status of belligerence given to them, then it becomes very, very, very serious for all of us."
The government forces are engaged in a war in Marawi City against the Islamic State-inspired Maute terrorists.
Duterte said while the government has young and well-trained soldiers, most of them died due to planted improvised explosive device.
"They are positioned appropriately and they are just waiting for the troops to move in. With all the IEDs planted everywhere. Our heaviest casualty was not the confrontational face to face," he said.
Duterte said the Scout Rangers are very young, about 20 to 22, and agile.
"Problem is you have to crawl and while crawling there are a lot of pressure... Most of our deaths were due to IEDs. The bodies were burned. I'm sorry to say this in public, and also from sniping," he said.
This was the reason the Philippines was asking assistance from other countries, like China and Russia, he said.
He said Russia's weapons would be arriving later this month. China has donated weapons to the Philippines. Celerina Monte/DMS