PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte on Tuesday warned armed groups to stop their operations in Mindanao or risk facing an all-out offensive by government forces.
“Kung hindi ko mapigilan (If I can’t stop this) and there will be an all-out offensive, ‘yan na ang problema (that will be a problem). If I give the order, I will no longer withdraw it,” Mr. Duterte said in a televised meeting with officials of the Bangsamoro autonomous region and other state authorities.
“I am avoiding the situation where things will go out of control.”
The President made the statement after government troops clashed with members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Datu Paglas in Maguindanao province on Saturday.
“Nagmamakaawa ako, tulungan n’yo ako (I am pleading to you, help me). Otherwise, if I give the order for an all-out offensive, it will be bloody and it will be sad),” he said.
Despite the warning, Mr. Duterte said the government “cannot wage a war against his own people.”
“Ayokong pumatay ng Muslim. Ayokong pumatay ng Kristiyano (I don’t want to kill Muslims. I don’t want to kill Christians),” he said.
May 13 has been declared a regular holiday nationwide in line with the celebration of Eid al-Fitr, the end of the Islamic month of fasting or Ramadan.
The BIFF is a breakaway group from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that signed a peace deal with the government, which paved the way for the establishment of the new Bangsamoro region.
MILF leaders are currently among the top officials of the region, which has been given more political and economic autonomy.
Meanwhile, Mr. Duterte reiterated his order to “destroy” communist rebels.
The tough-talking leader in March ordered authorities to “shoot and kill” armed Maoist rebels. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza