ZAMBOANGA CITY–Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Mujiv Hataman on Saturday emphasized the need to ensure the safety of civilians as he welcomed President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s order to finish off the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
“We welcome President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s most recent pronouncement regarding the government’s engagement with the Abu Sayyaf, recognizing the futility of dealing with the said local terror group and choosing instead to take action against their crimes. It was never the ARMM regional government’s policy to deal with criminals and terrorists,” Hataman said.
“However, the regional government hopes that in dealing with the Abu Sayyaf, state forces will conduct law enforcement operations, but at the same time ensure that civilians are protected at all times. More often than not, the communities bear the brunt of armed conflict, and we in the regional government, with the help of local government units, assure the provision of assistance to internally-displaced persons in conflict-affected areas.”
On Friday, President Durterte renewed his marching order to wipe out the Abu Sayyaf bandits during his visit at Camp Teodulfo Bautista in Jolo, Sulu.
“Dito [terrorism] walang atrasan ‘to, pati sa droga. Masisira ang bayan natin dito. (There is no backing down from terrorism and illegal drugs, otherwise our country would be ruined.) Wala tayong makukuha sa kanila [Abu Sayyaf] na ano,” he was quoted as saying in a statement provided by the PCO Davao.
“They would not honor kahit anong klaseng usapan (any sort of negotiation). Gusto lang nila patay, patay, patay, patay. Yun lang ang alam nila. Eh ‘di ubusin natin sila eh (All they want is to kill. That is all they know. We might as well finish them off),” the President added
Hataman said there is a need for the local government units in ARMM to beef up measures to fight against the terror group.
“We call on the local government units to take on a more proactive role against the continued threat of terrorism in our region. The only way to sustain the government’s response against terrorism is for our local government units to lead the fight against terrorism, making sure that there is no place for extremism and terror in our communities,” he said.
“We also call on our religious leaders to emphasize that terrorism has nothing to do with our faith, whether we are Muslims, Christians, or Lumad. We are called upon to take care of one another, to embrace and preserve life, and to respect the rights of each other.”
The military has been intensifying its operations in the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi following the order of the President to wipe out the Abu Sayyaf within a six-month period. The deadline will lapse on June 30.
About 40 Abu Sayyaf members have been neutralized since the campaign started.
Although a number of kidnapped victims have been rescued in recent weeks, the bandits are still holding about 28 hostages.