President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Friday, May 11, pleaded with former Maute terrorist group members to stop fighting the government and instead help with its rehabilitation efforts in rebuilding the once besieged city of Marawi.
“Huwag na muna tayo mag-away (let’s stop fighting,)” urged Mr. Duterte in a speech at the Marawi City Provincial Capitol Gym where he was presented with the firearms of the former fighters.
He asked the audience composed of Maute surrenderees to “give us a little time para mapagana namin ang rehabilitasyon (so we can progress with the rehabilitation.)”
“Give us time to rebuild, give us time to establish the goodwill, and I’m inviting the other Maute or whatever, nakikipag-away dito sa Marawi (the others fighting here in Marawi), you come down and we will talk how we can improve your lives,” he said.
Mr. Duterte pledged, “mag-land reform ako dito, magbuhos ako ng pera. (I will implement land reform and I will provide the funding.) I will look for the money.”
“I want to proclaim land reform here in Maguindanao because it is vast and wide, even the whole of Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur,” he explained in Tagalog.
“All you have to contribute is the work. I will take care of the rest,” he added.
He explained that “when I saw our Maranao brothers and sisters return to Marawi to reclaim their land, their homes and their lives, I immediately felt a sense of hope that Mindanao can rise as a center of growth and development, not just in the Philippines but the entire ASEAN region.”
He added: “That is why we have embarked on unprecedented infrastructure development program that intends to facilitate commerce and trade in Mindanao.”
He said, “if you want, we can talk. I’m ready to talk.”
Mr. Duterte declared Marawi liberated on Oct. 17 of last year, five months after Islamic militants composed of Maute members and radicalized foreigners clashed with government security forces on May 23, the same day he proclaimed martial law in the whole region of Mindanao.
Martial law was extended until the end of 2018, citing that terrorist threats in the region still exist and public safety demanded the extension.
It is estimated that up to 360,000 people were displaced due to the fighting with 163 government troops and 47 civilians declared dead. — Dane Angelo M. Enerio