Manila: Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte promised to give idle lands in Lanao del Sur to members of the Maute who had turned their back from extremism, adding that he could even provide amnesty for those with arrest warrants.
“My brothers from Marawi, the government really wants peace. We in the government do not want to come here and fight; that is a waste of time and money and the lives of people,” the president said on Friday before 27 members of the Maute. He said that aside from lands, the government can provide them with shelter and assistance as long as they commit to peace.
The Maute takes its name from its former leaders — brothers Abdullah and Omarkhayam Maute, who founded the Islamic fundamentalist rebel group which takes its inspiration from Daesh (the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).
The Maute brothers started fighting the government in 2016 by momentarily seizing the town of Butig in Lanao del Sur in February and November of that year. The attacks apparently were a prelude to bigger operation that culminated in the capture and occupation of Marawi City in May 23, 2017. They were joined by Basilan-based Abu Sayyaf leader, Isnilon Hapilon, as well as foreign volunteers and elements of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in the Marawi City attack.
Duterte expressed intentions to give to the rebels idle land in Lanao del Sur. He is willing to send them to Malaysia to learn how palm oil and rubber trees are being grown.
The government counter-attack to capture Marawi City eventually led to the deaths of the Maute brothers and Hapilon as well as dozens of insurgents who took part, but the adventure also left more than 200,000 residents of Marawi City in misery as they lost their homes and family from the fighting.
Talking to the members of Maute inside Kampo Ranao on Friday, Duterte expressed intentions to give to the rebels idle land in Lanao del Sur, adding that they can cultivate the soil. He even told them that he is willing to send them to Malaysia to learn how palm oil and rubber trees are being grown.
The president, however, said the members of the Maute should first be willing to talk peace and shun foreign ideologies such as that of Daesh.
He said that for members of the rebel group with existing arrest warrants but are willing to surrender, he would look at the possibility of amnesty.
Likewise, he also warned them against forging an alliance with communist rebels under the New Peoples’ Army (NPA).
Duterte had approached the NPA with the same tack — talking directly with the rebels and providing them with opportunities that would allow them to rejoin the mainstream society.
Duterte’s approach in dealing with communist rebels has led to the surrender of some 4,000 insurgents and their sympathisers in recent months.
“I’m inviting the other Maute or whatever, you come down and we will talk how we can improve your lives,” the president added.