New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), will be the government’s next target after state forces have crushed Islamic State-linked terrorists in Marawi City, President Rodrigo Duterte has warned.
Duterte said he no longer wanted to talk to the communist rebels, following their series of attacks against government forces.
During his surprise visit to government troops in Marawi City on Thursday, Duterte lamented that NPA rebels had killed members of the military and the police, despite government efforts to reach a peace deal.
“Don’t be too confident because there is a strong resurgence…The NPA is coming back again. After this (Marawi siege), we will re-orient and target the NPA,” Duterte told government troops fighting Islamist fighters in Marawi City.
“They owe us huge debt. I don’t want to talk to them. They killed many of my soldiers. They killed many of my policemen,” he said in Filipino.
In a separate speech at an investment forum in Davao City on Friday, Duterte said he was willing to fight the communist guerrillas for another five decades.
This was after CPP founding chairman Jose Maria Sison said there was no more need for peace talks because of martial law in Mindanao and alleged extrajudicial killings in the government’s drug war.
“I believe you, Mr. Sison. You are right. We stop talking. We’re wasting our time,” Duterte said.
“This war that you are fighting, I was listening to you when I was a student. That was 50 years ago. Let us renew the fighting for another 50 years. If it’s what you want,” he added.
‘I’ll bully you’
After being branded a “bully” by the communists’ political wing, the National Democratic Front (NDF), Duterte said it was his job to bully those bent on destroying the government.
“It’s published yesterday that the NDF branded me as a bully. Correct, tama ka diyan [you are right], 100 percent. I bully people who try to topple government and all the enemies of the state,” he said.
“That is my job to bully you and to kill you because there is a war going on between us and you. And you are killing my soldiers and policemen, so I bully you. And when the time comes, maybe I will kill you if I have the chance,” he added.
The President noted that the government had done nothing good in the eyes of the communist rebels.
“So, to the enemies of the state – No. 1 is the Communist Party of the Philippines. No more talk, let us fight,” the President added.
NDF consultants to be re-arrested
Duterte later told reporters in Davao City he was no longer interested to hold even informal or back-channel talks with the communist rebels.
The President also said the NDF consultants who were temporarily released to participate in the peace talks would be re-arrested.
“Of course, they have to surrender or we will hunt them down. Now, I’m sorry, please do not resist, because magkagulo tayo n’yan [there will be trouble],” Duterte said.
The Duterte administration ordered the temporary release of 20 political prisoners in August 2016 to join the first round of peace talks as NDF consultants in Oslo, Norway.
The government on Thursday cancelled back-channel efforts aimed at reviving formal talks after five members of the Presidential Security Group were wounded in an encounter with NPA rebels in Arakan, North Cotabato province, on Wednesday morning.
The NPA also attacked twice in Palawan province this week, killing two Marines and wounding another soldier.
On Friday, rebels ambushed a town councilor in Negros Oriental, killing seven people including the town police chief
In a news conference earlier Friday, Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said peace negotiations with communist rebels would stay on hold until the “enabling environment” was present.
Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza, however, said Duterte did not categorically announce that peace negotiations had been terminated.
“If there will be a new officially announced position, then, let’s all wait for a categorical statement coming from the President no less,” he said.
The fifth round of talks between the government peace panel and NDF was initially set from May 27 to June 1, but was postponed when the communists ordered rebel forces to resist the imposition of martial law in Mindanao after the terrorist attack on Marawi.
During the Palace briefing, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said the government was optimistic the right time would come for both parties to resume peace negotiations.
Esperon said Duterte could not be blamed if he was reluctant to resume talks, given the NPA attacks.
Lorenzana backs Duterte
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana however backed Duterte’s decision to cancel peace talks with the NDF.
Lorenzana said the NPAs deserved the tag “communist terrorists.”
“As our security forces continue to fight terrorists in Mindanao and as the government gets ready to start the recovery, reconstruction, and rehabilitation of Marawi City, the treacherous communist terrorists NPA has once again shown their utter lack of empathy towards our suffering countrymen,” he said in a statement.
WITH DEMPSEY REYES