MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s expressed willingness on Friday to hold talks with the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is timely as militant groups are now embracing Daesh’s ideology, security experts say.
Now that Duterte has signed the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), which gives self-rule to the country’s Muslim minority, it is time to “stop making war,” he said.
The BOL “is already signed,” he added. “Let us just give it time. Let us not engage in war because if we do... we would all just die.”
Prof. Rohan Gunaratna, an international terrorism expert, told Arab News that Duterte “is determined to restore peace and security” to the island of Mindanao.
“Already factionalized, if the ASG is uncooperative, it’s within the capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to contain, isolate and eliminate it,” Gunaratna added.
“One of the most brutal terrorist groups in Asia, engaging the ASG should be the focus of the Philippines.”
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has expressed his support for Duterte’s offer of talks with the ASG.
“If we have peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines, why not the ASG? Specially those who have not committed capital offenses,” Lorenzana wrote, adding that those who have decapitated hostages will have to answer for their crimes.
Asked if he believes that negotiations with the ASG would succeed, he replied: “Yes, there are already surrenders and more feelers.”
But Eliseo Mercado, a senior policy adviser to the Institute of Autonomy and Good Governance (IAG), which provided technical assistance in drafting the BOL, told Arab News: “I know that the president would like to talk to the ASG. But talking to it doesn’t necessarily mean peace talks.”
The aim is “probably just to encourage it to lay down its arms,” Mercado said. “Duterte only said he’ll talk to the ASG about its possible integration and rehabilitation into society. I suppose that’s possible, but giving them an amnesty is subject to a resolution in Congress.”