PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte said either death or surrender can revive the peace talks between the government and the communist rebels.
“The barometer is if they give up or [if]they are all dead. I do not have any choice. They are fighting the government. They’re killing the soldiers and policemen, so my order is also to kill them,” said Duterte in an interview with reporters after the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of Christine Villas housing project at Barangay Maria Cristina in Balo-i, Lanao del Norte on Wednesday.
“What else can I do? My forces are already being killed,” Duterte added.
Duterte remained optimistic, however, saying: “If they all surrender tomorrow, [the conflict]is over. What could be the use of [force]? But as I see, they are still fighting. There are a lot left. But I know that they are already having a hard time because [their members]are already old and sick.”
“Their leaders, their higher echelons, they are done. They are old. Their minds do not work like it used to before. But their members, they still are big in number,” Duterte added.
The Chief Executive said that the time was still not ripe for the resumption of the peace talks.
“Not at this time. Maybe. Alongside with the mass surrenders is also the ferocity of those fighting,” Duterte said.
Duterte said that he ordered the military to “reconfigure” the movement of its forces, especially on highways where the rebels have been using snipers against the troops.
“My soldiers who are standing in the detachment just die so we are reconfiguring the movement of the forces. I told my soldiers to modify the detachment, except in population centers. In highways, I do not want [the current set-up]because they know how to [use their]snipers,” Duterte said.
Duterte also said that he was still not satisfied with the number of surrenderees, since there were a lot more left.
Duterte “formally terminated” the peace talks with the communist rebels last November after signing Proclamation 360.
He said the rebels “failed to show its sincerity and commitment in pursuing genuine and meaningful peace negotiations as it engaged in acts of violence and hostilities.”
Since then, however, Duterte has flip-flopped on his position against the communist rebels.
Duterte got into a word war with Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) founder Jose Maria Sison, who said that he could command his troops to kill one soldier a day until the government revives the peace talks.
Duterte countered that he would order his soldiers to kill five NPA rebels for every soldier killed. RALPH EDWIN U. VILLANUEVA