President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to the troops of the Joint Task Force (JTF) Sulu prior to his visit to wounded soldiers at Camp Teodulfo Bautista in Jolo, Sulu in this May 27, 2017 file photo.
PCOO release, file
Duterte: I have no agenda to kill Moros
Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - July 14, 2020 - 5:47pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has assured Muslim Filipinos that he is not out to kill them in the wake of fears that they are the most at risk of abuse under the controversial anti-terrorism law.

Signed into law this month, the measure would provide the government "legal weapons" against terrorists, officials said. Some sectors are worried that the law may be used to target critics of the administration, suppress liberties, and discriminate against Muslims.

Duterte did not mention the law in his address before soldiers and Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan in Jolo on Monday. He, however, described as nonsense the claims that he is after Moros.

"Wala akong agenda na patayin ang mga Moro. Wala... katarantaduhan ‘yan (I have no agenda to kill Moros. That's nonsense)," the president said.

"And I say you cannot do it, and why should you do it? I'm glad you (Tan) are here listening," he added.

Bangsamoro leaders had cautioned against enactment of the law, pointing out that their communities have been the most affected by terrorist attacks and by excesses in security operations against terrorists.

Eight petitions have been filled questioning the legality of the Anti-Terrorism Act before the Supreme Court.

Among the provisions questioned were those that permit the pre-trial detention of suspected terrorists; enumerate acts of terrorism; punish persons who threaten to commit acts of terrorism; and incite others to commit terrorism through speeches, writings, proclamations, banners or other representations. The latest petition was filed by multi-sectoral alliance Sanlakas, which claimed that the "subjective features" of terrorism would be dependent on the perceptions of law enforcers or soldiers.

Some lawmakers from Mindanao have also expressed concern over the bill, saying it would make Muslims and Lumads vulnerable to terrorist-tagging.

Critics also noted that the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) would not be represented in the Anti-Terrorism Council. Malacañang has given assurances that the council would consult BARMM officials on policies related to fighting terrorism.

Last week, Duterte said law-abiding citizens need not fear the law, one of the measures that he had certified as urgent.

'I understand your anger'

Duterte expressed willingness to make some "arrangements" to address the sentiments of the Bangsamoro.

"I know Moros are not really contented because Moros came here in Mindanao ahead (of the Christians) and the Christians came later. As a matter of fact, if you are not (a Muslim), you are an outsider...That's why I understand your anger," the president said.

"We want to change our perception of you and give you a better arrangement. I want a change in arrangement to accommodate you... I know how to be a revolutionary and... I know how cruel (it can) be. " he added.

Duterte lamented that the conflict in Mindanao has resulted in killings and the humiliation of prisoners. He said he feels for the Muslims because his grandmother is also a Moro.

"If you are a warrior, a Tausug warrior, or a soldier, or ano, one bullet will suffice. If he dies, that's it. But humiliation, it creates more hatred... I want to be friends with all. I will forget about their sins. Let's just talk," he said.

"I am just asking, telling the Moro: Be a warrior. Period. Because the Philippines cannot do what they are doing. The people in government, we are not allowed to do crazy things like that," he added.

Both the Moro National Liberation Front and Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed peace agreements with the government years ago.

Government troops have, however, been conducting operations against the outlawed Abu Sayyaf Group in Sulu.

Duterte said he is ready to open the country's borders to boost trade in the south. He noted that not much barter trade is happening because Indonesians already have the things they used to acquire from the Philippines.

"But if there is a way which we can arrange another — even if it's big time calm then there's safe passage for soldiers so they won't be ambushed or hijacked, that would be OK for me. Let's talk," he added.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte was referring to the economic integration being implemented through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) when he was talking about opening the country's borders.

"That’s really a zero tariff or minimum tariff for intra-ASEAN trade. It’s a common market," Roque said at a press briefing Tuesday. 

BANGSAMORO BANGSAMORO AUTONOMOUS REGION IN MUSLIM MINDANAO RODRIGO DUTERTE
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