MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday denied reports that he pushed for talks with the Maute group in Marawi City.
“No I did not… he’s a pretender. I have never talked to terrorist, that’s one. I will never talk to criminals and to terrorists,” Duterte stressed during an interview after visiting members of the 403rd Infantry Brigade at Camp Bahain in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon.
“But I would talk to revolutionaries who are imbued with their values to a principle there, kagaya nitong Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). I talked to them because what drove them to fight government is the rising nationalism,” he added.
The President issued the statement following allegations made by Agakhan Sharief who claimed that a top Duterte aide had approached him to act as intermediary to start back-channel talks with the Islamic State-inspired militants.
Duterte said that the MNLF and the MILF might have initiated talks with the Maute group.
“But kung manggaling sa akin, ako maghingi sa mga criminal pati terorista, imposible. Tsaka marami na akong patay na sundalo pati pulis. Huwag nila akong biruin ng istorya-istorya lang tayo,” he said.
“If there has to be peace, it would really be peace. Huwag mo akong laruin ‘yang away ngayon tapos bukas — let us finish this once and for all,” Duterte said. PNA-northboundasia.com