Malacañang on Monday justified as “colorful language” the order of President Rodrigo Duterte to wipe out the communist rebels during his presidency.
The disclaimer came after Philippine National Police chief Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa revealed Duterte’s instruction for him to focus next on fighting the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, after the government finishes off remnants of the Maute Group in Marawi City.
Meanwhile, Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said during a news conference, “As to the statement of the President to wipe out the NPA, I guess that’s just colorful language, all right? To mean, actually, let’s go and deal with this long-standing problem.”
“This has been going on for a long, long time and it’s just a matter of priorities. We now have the Marawi problem, so we deal with that first, we focus our attention on that. Then after that, well, the government will just continue with what it has been doing before. So, I guess that’s what really the President meant,” he added.
Over the weekend, dela Rosa said Duterte ordered him to get rid of the NPA “whatever it takes.”
“After Marawi, we will focus on our problem [with the NPA],” the police chief added.
Peace talks between the government and communist rebels collapsed after Duterte ordered negotiations canceled over continued rebel attacks on police and military targets.
He said while the rebellion had gone on for 50 years, he was willing to go to war with the rebels for another 50 years.
The President even warned of filing criminal charges against members of the NPA in connection with their alleged extortion activities.
“Revolutionary tax, that’s extortion. So for me, I do not deal with the revolutionary tax. It’s plain extortion. To the police and military, when you make a report, [use]extortionists or kidnappers and we will file cases [against the NPA],” Duterte said during his visit to Negros Oriental on Thursday.
“Today, I’m directing the Armed Forces and the police not to use the word revolutionary tax. That’s not the proper word for us to adopt because the government has taxation. So do not use revolutionary tax. Use extortion, hold-upper, kidnapper and we’ll file a case under the Revised Penal Code,” he added. CATHERINE S. VALENTE