PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday canceled peace talks with the communists and told rebels leaders negotiating with the government to return to the Philippines and go back to prison.
Duterte said he was not ready to resume talks with the communists as he expressed exasperation at the rebel groups’ demand that he release 400 detained rebels.
“I’m not ready to talk about anything. I know them already. My position on the peace talks [getting cancelled]will not change anymore unless there is a compelling [reason]. But it will always be in the interest of the people. If I feel that there is a joke somewhere, I will not waste my time,” Duterte told reporters in Davao City.
The President stressed he would not compromise the integrity of the government by releasing all detained rebels.
“You don’t release political prisoners because they committed a crime…We started with 18 and we came up with 23 leaders and now it’s 400. If that’s the case let’s just surrender, no pardon, no amnesty, no anything,” Duterte said.
“Those released by the government should return to prison in their own volition. Those released to participate in the talks should return and face jurisdiction of the government because they are still criminals. I’m alerting all from the intelligence community to keep track of where they are now,” he added.
According to the President, all freed communist leaders would be imprisoned without bail. Their passports will also be cancelled.
“They are all in the wanted list so I will alert the international police to arrest them where they are because they are wanted here. I’ll cancel their passports,” Duterte said.
“I don’t know if they will be granted asylum there but with the rebellion, if you are just a member, it’s not a grave offense, maybe. But leaders, they should be in prison without bail,” he added.
In January, the government and the communist National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) ended a third round of peace talks in Rome without a bilateral ceasefire agreement, but both sides said their separate unilateral ceasefire declarations would remain.
The NDFP’s armed wing, the New People’s Army, however, announced on Wednesday the termination of their unilateral ceasefire effective February 10, citing Duterte’s failure to release all detained rebels.
Duterte on Friday refused to give in to the rebels’ demand and lifted the ceasefire on the part of the government, calling on the Armed Forces of the Philippines to “be ready to fight.”
The President’s decision came after NPA attacks that killed six soldiers. The rebels also abducted three government troopers.
Both sides had agreed to resume peace talks on February 22 in the Netherlands, to try to hammer out a bilateral ceasefire agreement.