By Genalyn Kabiling
Foreign terrorists are lurking in Mindanao as the Islamic State has already established a foothold in the southern region, President Rodrigo Duterte warned Tuesday.
The President cautioned the public about the imminent “ugly” situation that may arise from threats posed by suspected foreign terrorists that include Syrians, Arabs, Indonesians, and Malaysians.
“The ISIS has gained a foothold in the southern part of the Philippines. It’s a mix. But it has never been a question or issue of religion. It never has been, but it’s turning to be an ugly one,” Duterte said during the 116th anniversary celebration of the Bureau of Customs in Manila on Tuesday.
“Kasi nandito na [Because they are here] — the Syrians, the Arabs, the white Arabs, there are the dark Arabs, a lot of Indonesian and Malaysian terrorists there just waiting to… you give them the slightest reason. That’s the only thing. It has nothing to do with perpetuating in power,” he added.
The military recently disclosed that it has monitored 48 foreign terrorists allegedly recruiting and training members in Mindanao.
Maj. Gen. Fernando Trinidad, Armed Forces of the Philippines deputy chief of staff for Intelligence, said some suspected foreign terrorists were assisting a local group in Saranggani while others were providing aid and training to the Abu Sayyaf Group in Basilan, and Maute Group in Lanao del Sur.
Trinidad made the same disclosure in an effort to justify the military’s request for a year-long extension of martial law in Mindanao. The Supreme Court has upheld the Congress’ approval of the President’s request to extend martial rule in Mindanao until December 31, 2018.
The President, in the meantime, renewed his push for a federalism system or any government structure that will help bring peace and development in Mindanao.
Duterte also offered to cut short his six-year term if proponents could “perfect” the new system by 2020.
“If you can perfect the federal setup or any other kind of structure that could… to prevent a war, violence, bloodshed, I will go down. If they can do it in 2020, I will not wait for 2022. I will gladly step down,” he said.
The President earlier said he was considering a “hybrid” structure of government if the public opposes the proposed shift to federal system. Duterte said he would consider “concessions” such as the proposed adoption of China’s sovereignty over the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
In pushing for federalism, the President reiterated that he wanted to avoid an outbreak of violence in Mindanao.
“The only singular and sole reason why I am hurrying up the federal setup is…I am telling you now, as President, na pag walang different structural changes diyan sa Mindanao, the Moro people will go to war,” he said.
Meanwhile, the President sought to dispel speculations that he was out to prolong his stay in power through the proposed amendments to the Constitution to introduce the federal system.
“It will be the military and the police and all of you. You will see to it that the Constitution is followed. That if I overstay even for one day, you are supposed to oust me, place me under arrest for violating the Constitution,” he said.
“There will never be a time that I will ask you, ‘You prop me up as a dictator of this country.’ I have enough of politics. I have experienced all the accolades of my life,” he added.