Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said the first task of the country’s new president should be to end the 46-year-long communist insurgency.
Duterte earlier said he would first listen to the people before deciding to make a bid for Malacanang in the 2016 elections.
If he became president, the mayor added, he would work on ending the bloody rebellion being waged by the Maoist New People’s Army (NPA) that according to him has caused much suffering and hardship especially among Filipinos in the countryside.
Duterte made the statements in response to questions from reporters who covered a forum on federalism in Butuan City (Agusan del Sur) , the first leg of the “Listening Tour” that will bring him and his team to several key cities of the country over the next two months.
“We cannot continue killing each other. We are all Filipinos,” he said, adding that he was willing to talk with National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) head Jose Maria Sison who he said was his former college professor.
The NDFP is an umbrella organization counting the Communist Party of the Philippines and the CPP’s armed wing–the NPA–as members.
Reacting to criticisms to his stand to bring in the NPA to work with the government, especially in agencies involved in social services, Duterte asked, “Why? Do they have better ideas in ending this insurgency?”
He noted that the armed campaign by the government against the CPP’s armed wing over the last 40 years has not neutralized the communist movement in rural areas of the country.
In an earlier statement, Duterte said if he was elected as the country’s new leader next year, he would be willing to work with the Left, provided that they will all give up their arms and renounce violence as means to achieve change in society.
“I am willing to allow them to handle agencies of government involved in social services and pro-poor programs. But they have to come down and give up the rebellion,” he said of NPA guerrillas.
Duterte added that the strategy is expected to identify the real “rebels with a cause” from the plain extortionists who have been demanding money from businessmen and farmers in the countryside.
Those who will refuse to give up their arms after the group has been accommodated by the government will be pursued relentlessly and neutralized, he said.
“We will have a fresh start. We should stop killing each other for after all, we are all Filipinos,” the mayor added.