PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday warned that he might be forced to order the arrest of communist leaders if their recent move to intensify offensives against the government amid martial law in Mindanao leads to a “breakdown” in security.
In remarks during the 119th Philippine Navy anniversary celebration in Davao City, Duterte blasted the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) for calling on its armed rebels to intensify attacks against government.
“If there is a breakdown in the peace and order here because of the participation of the communists in this war against the ISIS (Islamic State), kung gusto ninyong tumulong sa kabila, magpuntahan na kayo lahat [if you want to help the other side, go there],” the President said.
“But I am warning the leaders whom I have released and who are now talking to the representatives of my government: Do not attempt to come home. I will arrest all of you and throw you to the slammer,” he added.
Duterte appeared to be referring to the roughly 20 communist consultants released temporarily by government to allow them to participate in the peace talks. These consultants include top CPP leaders Benito Tiamzon and his wife Wilma.
The CPP has said in a statement that it condemns terrorism. “The Party has long declared its policy of fighting terrorism. The Party has consistently condemned groups that attack civilians,” the CPP said last week.
Peace panels of the government and the CPP’s political wing, the National Democratic Front (NDF), are in the Netherlands for the fifth round of formal talks, which was cancelled when the former announced that it was not participating, as directed by the President.
The cancellation came after the CPP ordered the NPA to intensify attacks amid martial law in Mindanao, imposed by the President on May 23 to crush terrorists behind the Marawi siege.
Duterte said he might be compelled to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the Visayas, saying it was a “precautionary” step to prevent terrorist groups from targeting the region.
“If there is maybe a transfer of venue from Mindanao to the Visayas and to make it easy for the Philippines to challenge the new engagement, I will be forced to declare the suspension of writ of habeas corpus, not martial law,” Duterte said.
“Only the suspension of habeas corpus so I can arrest you anytime without a warrant. That is just a precautionary measure,” he added.