President Rodrigo Duterte is not keen on declaring war against any group but warns the ISIS-linked Maute group not to “force my hand into it.”
“I do not want to wage a war against Filipinos, but I told them that they have to stop. Sana huwag na lang tayong umabot ng giyera (I hope we don’t have to go to war). So I am doing everything to prevent a war,” Duterte told reporters in Cagayan de Oro City on Wednesday.
The President was at Camp Evangelista Station Hospital in Cagayan de Oro to visit the soldiers wounded on Tuesday in a roadside blast in Marawi City.
Duterte told the terrorist group not to force him to declare war against them.
“Ang sinabi ko, wala, wala akong … Sinabi ko hindi ko naman sila tinatakot sabi ko lang na ayaw ko, ayaw ko makipag-giyera (Not that I’m scaring them, I just said I don’t want to go to war), but do not force my hand into it,” he said.
The Commander in Chief said military operations against the Maute group would not stop.
“They have to go on with the operations. What is there to stop? Wala naman nagpapakita ng sincerity diyan (Nobody shows sincerity there) so the fight goes on,” he said.
State forces engaged in a firefight with the Maute group after the latter occupied the town hall of Butig, Lanao del Sur, several other buildings and houses in the town.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said they had so far recovered 85 to 90 percent of Butig town from the hands of the Maute group.