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Duterte: 2,000 MNLF fighters to join gov't forces in Marawi City

President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday said he has accepted the offer extended by Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari for 2,000 of his organization’s fighters to help in the ongoing fight against the Maute local terror group in Marawi City.

Duterte said the offer came up during a “late talk” on Saturday night with Misuari.

The President noted that these fighters will become “integrees,” or members of rebel groups who will be enslited to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“[H]e (Misuari) has offered to ask his troops of the MNLF, the able-bodied ones still, to fight with government, and I accepted the offer,” he said at the sidelines of his tour to the visiting Japanese warship JS Izumo, at Alava Pier in Subic Bay.

“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,” he added.

Duterte said the Philippine government has “always accepted ‘integrees’ from the MNLF and so far, walang problema.”

Duterte said he wishes to extend the same arrangement with the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, even after the suspension of the fifth round of peace talks between the government and the CPP’s political arm, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

The President clarified that NPA members may just surrender and not join the AFP.

To those who wish to join the military, however, Duterte said they will get an equivalent rank inside the military.

“That offer also goes to the NPAs. Kayong ayaw na ninyong mag-away—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. Ako na maghahanap ng pera,” he said.

“‘Yung gustong magsundalo, kung ano ‘yung ranggo mo do’n, ‘yun ang ranggo mo dito. I’m not taking in generals. Ibig sabihin, ‘yung rank-and-file, if you desire to surrender and fight with the government forces, I am taking them in,” he added.

Duterte noted that the fighters, should they become integrees, will no longer need training to go to war.

“They are at war with us. But if they decide to side with us, then maybe I can solve a little bit of the problem,” he said.

The President reiterated that he and the government have the ability to finish off the terrorists holed up in Marawi City with unrestrained use of military air assets, but has chosen not to do so due to humanitarian considerations.

Malacañang earlier reported that 30 civilians have been killed by the Maute group and more than 1,000 more have been rescued in the ongoing conflict in Marawi City.

It added that 120 Maute fighters and 38 government soldiers have also been killed.

The regional government of the ARMM, meanwhile, said more than 3,000 residents were stranded in conflict zones in the city while more than 200,000 individuals have been displaced by the conflict.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Saturday that an estimated 200 to 250 Maute fighters are still in Marawi City.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao after the Maute group attacked the city on May 23. —ALG, GMA News