President Rodrigo Duterte admitted Monday that ending the long-running armed conflict in Mindanao, his home region, remains an “impossible dream,” saying that fighting seemed to be the best option to pave the way for peace for now.
In a taped speech aired yesterday, Duterte appeared before government troops to honor their comrades who died in the twin blasts that rocked Jolo, Sulu last week, urging them to “think about peace” even as they continue fighting against terrorists.
This developed as an analyst warned that security measures in Zamboanga City must be enhanced following the information that Abu Sayyaf commander Mundi Sawadjaan and other terrorists were "sent out for a mission to sow terror in Zamboanga Peninsula."
The military had tagged Sawadjaan as the brains of the Jolo blasts, carried out by two female suicide bombers who were widows of Abu Sayyaf fighters.
"Zamboanga City is under continuing threat, considering it is also composed of a Christian population, which is what the violent extremists of ISIS really want," Dr. Rommel Banlaoi said in a forum Monday.
"There is basis for that anxiety. I think Zamboanga City has to boost its security preparation in order to prevent any untoward incident to happen," he added.
On Sunday afternoon, Duterte visited the blast site in Jolo, Sulu, and offered flowers in honor of the slain soldiers. It was the first time he left his hometown of Davao City in a month, in part to isolate himself against the coronavirus pandemic.
He was also pictured kneeling and kissing the ground of the blast site to honor the soldiers, police officers, and others whose lives were “snuffed out” by the twin blasts, the President said.
“If we cannot really agree, then we fight and we fight hard hanggang magkaubusan na (we finish everyone off). Maybe by that time, kung ubos na ang lahat, wala ng giyera (when no one is left, there won’t be war)," the President said.
In the meantime, Duterte said the best option they had was to fight.
“But if in the God’s time, maybe— kailan ‘yon (when is that)?—we will have a time to talk and to ponder about peace.”
The President, who had served as mayor of Davao City—considered the region's premier metropolis—for over two decades, vowed continued support for soldiers/
But also admitted that it would be difficult to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao.
“I have two years left, I don’t know what I can really do. But you know when you're into fighting there’s really anger. It will be difficult to resolve because there’s bitterness in their hearts," he said.
Duterte said it would “take more than a generation” to solve the decades-long insurgency in Mindanao, and expressed hope that future leaders would be able to achieve.
“I hope that anyone of my children would become a politician even if he is just a barangay captain that he’d be able also to do something about this problem of the Moro and the Christians,” he said.
The twin bombings will only boost state forces’ resolve to address terrorism in Mindanao, Duterte said.
He told government troops that the only way to honor the “ultimate sacrifice” of their fallen comrades is to continue their fight against terrorism.
He said the troops should “never be complacent" when it comes to terrorism, even amid the prevailing coronavirus pandemic.
“The recent bombings that took the lives of several civilians including those of your fellow soldiers will only further strengthen our resolve to crush the lawless elements behind this cowardly act,” he said.
Duterte also noted the safety and security of the nation should always remain uniformed personnel’s top priority.
“Right now, our entire nation is dealing with the global health crisis yet enemies of the state will still find the energy to perpetuate the acts of violence and terrorism. Now more than ever our nation needs our Armed Forces to ensure that these terrorists will never succeed in their pointless goals,” he said.
He recognized that the ongoing health crisis has made soldiers’ responsibilities “more complicated”, but also noted that their “selflessness” to serve the country and people remain strong.
“Because of this, I am humbled by your commitment, inspired by your patriotism and grateful for a continued support,” he said.
The President also vowed to support the Armed Forces in addressing terrorism in Jolo, Sulu.
“As a Filipino, I will give all the support you need to complete your mission here in Jolo. I commit myself to work with you my dear troops to ensure that these terrorists will have no future in this country,” he said.
He also lamented how Mindanao’s progress has been hindered by the threat of insurgency and extremism.
“If this seed of hatred did not carry on from generation to generation, perhaps life would be better for everyone,” he said.
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