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Palace defends Duterte from NYT’s ‘braggadocio’ editorial
MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang yesterday disputed The New York Times editorial which said that President Duterte’s boastful behavior is partly to blame for the conflict in Marawi City.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the media and the public should look at the whole picture and the context of Duterte’s pronouncements.
“First and foremost, he did not just pick a fight. He was willing (to talk). It is erroneous to say that he was not willing to talk. He was quite open,” Abella told state-run Radyo Pilipinas yesterday, adding that Duterte was in fact asking the militants to refrain from sowing disorder. “But when they continued with their actuations, he said ‘I will longer talk to them.’”
In its editorial titled “How ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) grew in the Philippines” published last June 15, The New York Times said the extremist group was consolidating its sway over Islamist rebel groups on Mindanao while Duterte was “bragging” about his brutal war on drugs.
The editorial said the extent to which the ISIS has succeeded “is now alarmingly evident,” as it noted that the clashes between government troops and Maute militants are now in its fourth week.
The conflict started last May 23, the same day Duterte placed Mindanao under martial law.
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“Mr. Duterte’s braggadocio is partly to blame for the escalation of the conflict. Last year, he rejected a ceasefire offer from the Maute group, which is leading the fight in Marawi. He said in December that when the group pledged to ‘go down upon Marawi to burn the place,’ he responded, ‘Go ahead, do it,’” the editorial read.
“With the presence of foreign fighters, including Malaysians and Indonesians, who are working alongside militant leaders with strong ties to ISIS, Mr. Duterte has a serious problem on his hands that threatens the security of the entire region.”
According to The New York Times, the most urgent need is “to ratchet down the fight in Marawi and press Duterte to restart negotiations with militant groups.”
Abella responded that Duterte was quite open about it.
“It’s all on record. He was quite open, he was requesting, ‘I do not want to quarrel with you,’” the Palace spokesman said.
Abella said Duterte had clarified that he did not want to wage a war against his own countrymen, including members of the Maute group.
“The foremost intention of the President is peace within our borders. Peace, especially within Mindanao. Remember that he ran for office because he noticed that no one was paying attention to the peace in Mindanao,” Abella said.
“But he said ‘there is a limit.’ But there is a certain point that he won’t be able to accept. He said ‘I do not want to pick a fight with you. I do not want to spill blood. But, please do not force my hand,’” he added.
Duterte had also made it clear that he could not visit Mindanao every month only to find out that clashes resumed after he left, according to Abella.