SAYING he has had enough, President Rodrigo Duterte declared that it’s time to resume fighting as he insisted that he no longer wanted to revive the peace negotiations with communist rebels.
“No more, wala na (It’s over). We can start the war, yes, after I shall have completed the training and distribute the new firearms, we will go into an offensive,” Duterte said in an interview aired on government-run People’s Television Network on Friday night.
“To the communists, let us fight again. Let us fight again for another 50 years,” the President added.
Duterte’s latest pronouncement was contrary to chief government negotiator Silvestre Bello 3rd’s statement on Thursday that the President was still open to the resumption of the talks with the communists.
On Friday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana echoed Bello’s pronouncement that the peace talks were “still alive.”
Bello, in a news conference in Malacañang, said the government did not formally terminate the talks despite the President’s earlier pronouncements.
He also said the President was not abandoning his promise to pursue “lasting peace” under his term by ensuring that the peace negotiations between the government and the communist rebels would be successful.
“When the President came in…he made a very clear statement that his legacy to our countrymen is a lasting peace for our country. So I don’t think that the President has abandoned that legacy,” Bello said.
“The talks are alive and we are just waiting for the President to give us the instruction to go back to the peace table,” he added.
Lorenzana said the peace process was only put on hold as disagreements on some issues were still unresolved.
“The President is adamant in resuming talks without a bilateral ceasefire,” the Defense chief said in a statement on Friday.
He said he had told the President that a proposed “ceasefire” must include: no extortion, no attacks on civilians and their properties, no attacks on the military and the police, and no recruitment or expansion.
“The [communist rebels]know these parameters…but it seems they are not sincere because they continue to burn equipment of companies who refuse their extortion demands and attack police and military,” Lorenzana said.
Duterte has been flip-flopping on the idea of reviving the peace negotiations, questioning the sincerity of the communists in dealing with the government.
The fifth round of talks scheduled for May 27 to June 1 was cancelled by the government after the Communist Party of the Philippines ordered the New People’s Army (NPA), its armed wing, to step up offensives against government forces implementing martial law in Mindanao.
Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23 to quell the Maute terrorist group that attacked Marawi City.
In July, Duterte told the government negotiating panel to drop the talks unless the NPA stopped its attacks on government troops and other illegal activities. He also insisted on a bilateral ceasefire agreement.
WITH RJ CARBONELL