President Duterte has accepted an offer by Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari for 2,000 of his group’s fighters to help in the battle to free Marawi City from Islamic State-affiliated terrorists.
The president said the offer came up during a “late talk” on Saturday (June 3) with Misuari.
Speaking during a visit to a Japanese warship visiting Subic Bay, he said: “He has offered to ask his troops of the MNLF, the able-bodied ones still, to fight with government, and I accepted the offer.
“He has offered 2,000 and I said I’m willing to take in 2,000 as regular members of the Armed Forces of the government.”
The president also said he wanted to extend the same arrangement to the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
“That offer also goes to the NPAs,” he said. “I’m not asking you to join my force, you just surrender and I will give you the houses, and I will expand the Land Reform program of the government.
“I you desire to surrender and fight with the government forces, I am taking them in,” he added.
The president also reiterated that although the military had the means to finish off the terrorists still holed up in Marawi using air strikes, he had chosen not to risk endangering the 2,000 civilians still trapped in the city.
Efforts to recapture the city are continuing nearly two weeks after terrorists went on the rampage under the IS black flag.
The chaos erupted after a failed raid to capture IS’s regional representative, or ‘emir’, Isnilon Hapsilon, an Abu Sayyaf commander who has a $5 million FBI bounty on his head.
It is believed he was being harboured by the local Maute terror group as he attempted to unite the various Islamist groups of the Philippines under the banner of IS.
The extent of the chaos that erupted after the raid — and the confirmation of foreign jihadis in the city — suggests he had made some headway towards this end.