Duterte says Abus not criminals, blames US for Mideast violence
DAVAO CITY, Philippines—President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday balked at calling the Abu Sayyaf criminals, even as he blamed US intervention for the bloody conflicts in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries.
“That’s why I am not including Abu Sayyaf [activities] in criminality. You’ve never heard me say (they are) criminal(s). It is a different setup there because these are the guys who were driven to desperation,” he said in a speech during the Hari Raya Eid al-Fitr celebration at SMX convention center here.
Duterte said he knew the situation “from Nur [Misurari] to the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao).”
“There is no sufficient semblance of governance and that is why they are pushed to the wall,” he said, adding: “Then they became radicalized.”
The celebration was attended by such prominent Moro leaders as Ghadzali Jaafar of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The President earlier warned the Abu Sayyaf to stop a wave of ransom kidnappings, and said he would eventually confront the militants.
Two Canadians were successively beheaded by the militants in Sulu after ransom deadlines lapsed.
A Norwegian, a Dutch bird watcher and a group of seven newly kidnapped Indonesian tugboat crewmen remain in Abu Sayyaf custody.
The United States and the Philippines have blacklisted the Abu Sayyaf as a terrorist organization for bombings, kidnappings for ransom and beheadings.
In his speech, Mr. Duterte also suggested that US policy was to blame for terrorist attacks on its soil, saying, “It is not that the Middle East is exporting terrorism to America, America imported terrorism.”
He said the US-led invasion in Iraq, which was backed by Britain, led to Saddam Hussein’s downfall but caused the oil-rich nation to descend into bloody strife, adding that America’s action had no legal basis.
Mr. Duterte earlier said he would chart a foreign policy not dependent on the United States.
“They destroyed the Middle East,” he said as he faulted foreign intervention in the Middle East for the worsening situation there.
Mr. Duterte said that before the US-led coalition invaded Iraq, Saddam Hussein was in control and the situation there was much better than today.
“Look at Iraq now,” he said.
The President also said violence worsened in Libya when Moammar Ghadafi was ousted as president. He said foreign intervention continued to worsen the Middle East situation, citing Syria’s case as another example.
He said the situation that gave rise to radicalism there was different, though the people there were against foreign intervention.
In the Philippines, he said the players were all Filipinos and “we are all brothers.”
Mr. Duterte said he was talking to the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the MILF in the hope of ending the decades-old conflict.
He said he thought of federalism as the effective way to resolve the Mindanao problem because it would give everyone the same opportunity.
What the MILF gets, he said, will also be the same thing that the MNLF gets. With reports from AP/TVJ
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