MANILA — Malacañang on Thursday stressed that President Rodrigo Duterte and the government at large does not negotiate with terrorists as it belied reports of an alleged attempt to hold back-channels with Islamic State-inspired militants who are holed out in Marawi City.
“Let me be clear that the position of the Palace and the President is not to negotiate with terrorists, including these local terrorist groups, which had intended to establish a state within the Philippine state and to remove allegiance to the government of the Philippines and the Chief Executive of the City of Marawi and its residents,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said at a Palace briefing.
“Because this constitutes rebellion, because they submit to a foreign leader, and hold to a dangerous ideology that is inimical to the well-being of all Filipinos, including Muslim Filipinos. And because most Muslim Filipinos disagree with the extreme interpretation and application of the Muslim belief system,” he added.
The Palace official issued the statement following claims made by a Muslim cleric, Agakhan Sharief, who, according to a published report, alleged that a top Duterte aid had approached him to act as intermediary to start back-channel talks with the Maute terror group.
The same report however said that Sharief, known locally as “Bin Laden” due to his resemblance to the late al Qaeda leader, would not reveal the identity of Duterte’s aide.
Abella belied the claim saying that “up to this point, we have no verified reports that there were efforts to initiate such actions as Agakhan Sharief claims.”
Earlier, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon likewise belied the cleric’s claim.
Dureza said he was unaware of any back-channel talks, while Esperon said it was unlikely that President Duterte would try to make a deal with the Maute group.
In the meantime, Abella expressed the government’s appreciation to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for the issuance of fatwa against extremism and radicalism happening in Marawi.
He added that the President the President is serious about rectifying the social injustice committed against Muslim Mindanao as he remains committed to having the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) passed.
“The President intends this (BBL) to be a template for his vision of a federal form of government in the Philippines. The President is committed to what is just, fair, and equitable; and he stands against what is criminal, corrupt, and dangerous to the people, and to the next generation,” Abella said.