Duterte talks tough on Isis

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte. Source: Wikimedia

The Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, has promised to ignore human rights if so-called Islamic State fighters flee from West Asia to the archipelago.

Speaking to a law enforcement agency, Duterte said there were fears of extremists returning from Iraq and Syria.

The firebrand president said: “Once the terrorists of the Middle East are deprived of the land area, the real estate area where they can sleep … they will wander to other places and they will come here and we have to prepare for that. Remember, these guys, they do not have an iota of what is human rights, believe me. I will not just simply allow my people to be slaughtered for the sake of human rights, that’s bullshit.”

Duterte, who did say he was going to stop swearing, almost severed relations with the Obama administration over criticism of his drug murders, calling the US president a “son of a whore”, but he has changed his stance since the victory of Donald Trump, signalling that he will cooperate with a Trump White House.

Duterte said he feared “looming terrorism” on Mindanao, the second largest Philippine island, which he said was already largely lawless.

In September, a bomb killed 15 people in the city of Davao, where Duterte was mayor for 22 years. The attack was linked to fundamentalist group Dawlah Islamiyah, allied to Abu Sayyaf and Isis.

“There are various rebel groups in the south who will claim allegiance to anybody who appears radical,” said Bill Payton of Chatham House’s Asia Programme in London. “It doesn’t necessarily mean they subscribe to the ideology.”

Abu Sayyaf says it wishes to build an Islamic state in the Philippines and has kidnapped and beheaded two Canadian nationals, Robert Hall and John Ridsdel, in the past year. It is currently holding 21 hostages.

Payton added: “The Islamic insurgency in the southern Philippines has been problematic enough without [Isis]. Duterte also thinks he can cut a deal with some of the Islamic rebel groups and he doesn’t want a terrorism upsurge to derail that.”

US special forces have operated in the south of the archipelago since 2002 on counterinsurgency operations, although the numbers deployed has reduced in recent years.

Duterte says he wants the US forces to leave the whole of the Philippines.

“By the time I end my term [in 2022], I do not want to see any, not only the US but even African or Chinese or whatever, I do not want to see foreign military troops in my country,” Duterte told the Wall Street Journal earlier this year. “We are just facing rebellion; I do not expect any war against any country.”