No declaration of state of emergency in Jolo, Sulu.
This was the stance of President Rodrigo Duterte in his press briefing with reporters even as the government troops intensified operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group in the area.
“Hindi. It’s just a punitive police action by the security forces of the government,” Duterte said, when asked if he was considering declaring a state of emergency in Jolo.
“The magnitude of the trouble there does not warrant anything except the industry of the AFP [Armed Forces of Philippines] and PNP [Philippine National Police],” he said at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2.
Earlier, the President issued the marching order to the military to destroy the Abu Sayyaf after the bandits killed an 18-year-old hostage last week.
Also yesterday, Duterte bared that Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chair Nur Misuari wants to meet with him in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur.
Duterte said he is interested to meet Misuari in his bid to end the decades-long conflict in Mindanao.
‘’Nur and I talked last night and he said he wants to meet me in Kuala Lumpur,’’ Duterte said in his press briefing.
‘’He said let’s do a signing in two days so we could end this fight,” he added.
Duterte said Misuari wants the Organization of Islamic Conference to mediate in the meeting.
The OIC helped broker the MNLF’s final peace agreement with the government in 1996.
Asked if the government would implement the standing warrant of arrest for Misuari if he surfaces, Duterte ordered the police to lift it.
“Well, if there is a warrant of arrest, all I have to do is to not implement it against him because if you arrest Misuari, you place him under the custody of the police diyan sa (Camp) Crame and if he dies for whatever reason, kompromiso na tayo (we will be compromised),” he said.
“Ako man ang hepe ng pulis pati military, sabihin ko lang, huwag ninyong galawin (I will just tell the chiefs of police and the military not to arrest him),” he added.
He said he wants to talk to Misuari rather than waste government money on fighting with the rebels.
“Kasi the most important thing really is that there is a dialogue going on kasi (because) it has saved us a lot of money,” he said.
“’Yung pera pang-away, ibili nalang natin ng, ibigay nalang natin sa tao pang-hanapbuhay (Instead of using the money for war, let’s just use it for people’s livelihood),” he added.
Misuari is currently in hiding for supposedly leading the Zamboanga City siege in 2013 that left about 200 people dead.
Thirty Abu Sayyaf members and 15 soldiers have been killed in the stepped up operations against the lawless armed group.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said that despite the losses, the government will continue until the Abu Sayyaf is terminated.
National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana also said that an additional five battalions or 2,500 soldiers will be deployed to Jolo to hunt down the Abu Sayyaf.