Duterte takes potshots at US anew

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Still hurting from US criticism of his administration’s human rights record, President Duterte has again taken potshots at the Americans, reminding them of their slaughter of thousands of Muslims in Mindanao in the early 1900s.

“There was this historical injustice committed against the Moro people. The Americans may want to know that during their campaign in Mindanao they slaughtered 600,000 Moro people,” Duterte told troops gathered in Davao Oriental for the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Mindanao Command last Friday.

The President also called on security forces to destroy once and for all the terror group Abu Sayyaf, which beheaded an 18-year-old man in Sulu.

In his speech, Duterte questioned the US government’s expressing concern over human rights abuses in the conduct of his administration’s war on illegal drugs.

Earlier, the President expressed his disappointment with the terror group after it failed to release Norwegian hostage Kjartan Sekkingstad despite the payment of P50-million ransom.

He said he had thought Abu Sayyaf members were fighting for freedom. “But when you began to slaughter people, in front of the camera and then now you killed an innocent boy, I’m losing my respect for you,” Duterte said.

“So my orders to the Armed Forces and to the police – destroy them. Destroy them because they are criminals. And we’ll never have peace in that area and even if you grant them autonomy, and they maintain to be bandits, we will never have peace in that land,” he said.

“I would not hesitate to order the Armed Forces of the Philippines – kill them. Destroy them. Destroy,” the President told the troops.

He added it would be useless to talk peace with the bandit group. “There’s a segment of society… who want peace. And here you are slaughtering people as if they are chickens in front of the public. You lost my respect,” he said.

No ransom policy

Despite Duterte’s slip of the tongue on the payment of P50-million ransom to the Abu Sayyaf, the government is standing pat on its “no ransom” policy, Malacañang said yesterday.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said that while ransom had been paid for the release of Sekkingstad, the money came from “third parties” and not from the government.

Asked if it was okay to pay ransom if no government money was involved, he said the government would never encourage such arrangement.

“If they (third parties) make negotiations, (then) that is their negotiation,” Abella said.

The terror group beheaded 18-year-old Patrick Almodovar in Sulu after his family failed to raise P1-million ransom money. 

In his first few days in office, Duterte warned the group of a “day of reckoning.”

Sekkingstad was taken from a resort on Samal Island in September 2015, along with Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall and Filipina Marites Flor. Ridsdel and Hall were beheaded after the Abu Sayyaf failed to get any ransom while Flor was released last June 24, a few days before Duterte took office.

Duterte presented Flor to the public during a police turnover ceremony in Davao, where he also revealed a group of negotiators, whom he did not identify, was working for the Norwegian’s release.

He also discussed the issue with Norwegian Ambassador Erik Forner. 

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto said the government offensive against the Abu Sayyaf can now go full blast with an indefinite ceasefire with communist rebels already in place. – With Giovanni Nilles, Edith Regalado



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