On start of Ramadan, Palace offers ‘hand of peaceful dialogue’ to terrorists

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Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella

MANILA, Philippines — Malacanang marked the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan on Saturday by saying President Rodrigo Duterte “has offered the hand of peaceful dialogue to terrorist groups, to avoid bloodshed in this time of prayer, fasting and mercy.”

The statement by presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella reiterated Duterte’s offer Friday to the Maute group, whose continuing battle against government forces in Marawi City prompted the declaration of martial law over the whole of Mindanao.

“My message mainly to the terrorists on the other side is we can still solve this through dialogue. And if you cannot be convinced to stop fighting, so be it. Let’s just fight,” Duterte said in a speech before soldiers in Iligan City.

“We stand with Muslim Filipinos in their reverent observance of the holy month of Ramadan,” Abella said Saturday.

“Together we pray for an end to terrorism that falsely claims to advance Islam and seeks to subjugate our land to the brutal IS,” he added.

Abella said Duterte’s offer of dialogue was made “in this spirit of Muslim peace.”