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Says he doesn’t want war, ‘do not force my hand into it’.
President Duterte has warned the local Maute terror group to stop its attacks or else face a full-blown war from government forces.
The President admitted he was reluctant to declare war against fellow Filipinos but cautioned the Maute group sowing trouble in the south “not to force” him to take such “drastic” action.
The government’s action plan against the ISIS-linked group was discussed by the President’s meeting with top military officials in Lanao del Sur.
“Dito sa Maute, I said I don’t want to wage a war against Filipinos but I told them that they have to stop. Sana huwag na lang tayo umabot ng gyera so I’m doing everything to prevent a war,” the President said in a chance media interview in Cagayan de Oro.
“Hindi ko naman sila tinatakot. Sabi ko lang ayaw ko, ayaw kong makipag-giyera but do not force my hand into it,” the commander-in-chief added.
After the security briefing in Lanao, the President traveled to Cagayan de Oro to visit the soldiers wounded in a roadside blast in Marawi City last Tuesday.
For now, the President said military operations against the Maute group would be sustained.
“They have to go on with the operations. What is there to stop? Wala naman nagpapakita ng sincerity dyan so the fight goes on,” he said.
The President traveled to Lanao del Sur on Wednesday to check military operations against the Maute group. The security briefing was held 103rd Brigade Tactical Command post in Butig, Lanao del Sur.
Duterte’s visit to Lanao was made even after the attack on seven of his security aides and two soldiers in Marawi City last Tuesday. From Lanao, the President went to Camp Evangelista Station Hospital in Cagayan de Oro City to visit the wounded troops.
In a speech to the local community, the President pushed for a “middle ground” in settling the latest armed conflict in Mindanao.
“It is very easy to start a war but how to stop it and to heal the wounds mahirapan ‘yan. Mahirap ‘yan. Sana naman magkaroon tayo ng middle ground,” he said.
“Alam mo mahal ko kayo at sana tulungan na lang ninyo ako kaysa makipag-away ang gobyerno na wala namang katapusan,” he added.
Duterte admitted that the Republic will survive” despite the threat posed by Maute group, which has allied with the Islamic State.
“Ayoko makipag-patayan but please do not force my hand kasi may limit naman ang problema nito, I cannot be forever traveling here every month para lang makipag-usap at kapag talikod ko patayan na naman,” he said.
If forced to declare war against terrorism, the President warned that he would be “harsh as I can ever be.”