SEIZED FIREARMS. President Rodrigo R. Duterte leads the inspection of firearms confiscated from terrorists on the sidelines of the Araw ng Kagitingan commemoration at Camp Teodulfo Bautista in Jolo, Sulu on April 9, 2019. (Karl Norman Alonzo/Presidential Photo)
President Rodrigo R. Duterte said he is confident that the Islamic State (ISIS) “will never gain foothold” in the Philippines, thanks to the military’s efforts to counter violent extremism.
Duterte, in his Araw ng Kagitingan speech in Jolo, Sulu on Tuesday night, lauded the military’s accomplishments against the ISIS-inspired Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits.
He said that the commemoration of the fall of Bataan is a fitting occasion to also honor the troops for their relentless efforts against lawless elements that threaten the security of the nation.
“I am especially pleased with our military’s recent accomplishments against the Abu Sayyaf Group. Your efforts have brought us even closer to our ultimate objective of totally crushing violent extremism at its roots,” Duterte said in his speech.
“With this, I can confidently declare that ISIS will never gain foothold anywhere in the Philippines,” he added.
The President admitted that ISIS is a cause for concern. He, however, assured that the military would continue to curb the movement of terrorists.
“There is the ISIS that we have to worry here in — well in this part of Sulu, up and down Basilan. We’ll just have to fight and fight,” Duterte said, assuring the military of “utmost” protection.
“But anyway, ang foremost — ang trabaho ko (my job) is to protect also my soldiers and you will have it,” he said.
Duterte, as the military’s Commander-in-Chief, also renewed his commitment to modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and prioritize their needs.
“Let me assure you, the government continues to prioritize your welfare and that of your families,” he said.
“During my time you will be rewarded with a good pay and service, and everything that you would need after,” he added.
‘Why should I be scared of you?’
Duterte, meanwhile, taunted communist rebels, saying that he is not afraid of them even if the peace negotiations are over.
“Ipinakita nila na ayaw nila at kung ganun lang, bastusan lang rin, eh ‘di — tapos na tayo mag-usap. Ngayon, gustoninyo patayan na lang (They have shown me that they do not want to talk. In that case, we’re done talking Now, if you want, let’s just fight it out.) I am not ready to talk to any communist guy,” he said.
“Sabi ko, karami kong sundalo, karami kong eroplano, karami kong matatapang na sundalo. Bakit ako matakot sa inyo (I said, I have many soldiers, many planes, many brave soldiers. Why would I be afraid of you)?” he added.
In 2017, the President formally terminated the peace talks with communist rebels due to continued attacks staged by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels against government troops and civilians.
Last month, Malacañang also confirmed the termination of the appointments of government peace negotiators with communist rebels “in view of the termination of the peace negotiations.”
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea signed the termination letters “by order of the President” on March 18.
The Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)