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Duterte douses fears of a revolutionary government

President Rodrigo Duterte talks to the troops of the Eastern Mindanao Command during the President's visit at Camp Panacan Station Hospital in Davao City on November 18, 2017. Richard Madelo/Presidential Photo

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday announced that he would move to categorize Maoist rebels as terrorists as he doused fears that he would declare a revolutionary government to counter supposed threats to his administration.

Duterte on Saturday indicated that he would declare the National Democratic Front, the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People's Army as terrorist groups, a tag that the US and the European Union have given them for several years now.

If Duterte decides to formally declare them as terror organizations, this may spell the collapse of peace talks aimed at ending decades of communist insurgency which is already one of the longest in the world.

"I will follow America, since they say that I am an American boy. Okay, granted. I will admit that I am a fascist. I will categorize you already as a terrorist," Duterte said in his remarks at an event honoring soldiers who fought Islamist militants in the five-month-long siege of Marawi, a southern Philippine city of around 200,000.

The president also warned companies which would continue financially supporting the rebels through their so-called revolutionary tax, which Duterte described as extortion.

He aimed his warning particularly at mining companies, which the president said regularly deposited money in bank accounts maintained by the communist guerrillas to protect their operations from attacks.

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The chief executive also blasted "front organizations" of the rebels which he said were in "conspiracy" with their armed wing which operates in rural areas.

"Everybody has to reconfigure their relationship with the NPA. If you continue to support them financially, I will close you down in the interest of the security of the state," said the tough-talking Duterte.

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During his first few months in office, Duterte tried to engage the rebels in peace talks but called off the negotiations later on following allegations of continued operations of the guerrillas against government forces.

The rebels, meanwhile, argued that security forces were continuing their operations in their lairs despite the negotiations.

The president also told his audience that as of Monday peace talks with the communist fighters were suspended and declared that he would just wage a war against the rebels.

The president reassured the public that he would not declare martial law or a revolutionary government, saying that he would just arrest the rebels and detain them in government prisons for a number of hours.

READ:  No legal basis for planned revolutionary government – lawmaker

"Then I will arrest them the next day for the number of hours until we get what we have," said the president, noting that this was his recourse since the Philippines did not have an anti-subversion law.

If the president goes ahead with his warning and tags the Maoist rebels as terrorists, this would essentially kill efforts to forge peace with communist fighters since the government is not allowed to negotiate with terror groups.

"If the CPP-NPA is eventually declared as terrorist group, it would probably bring about the official termination of the peace talks,” Silvestre Bello, chairman of the government peace panel, told The STAR.

Duterte also warned that Islamist militants could launch retaliatory attacks after Islamic State-inspired fighters failed to establish a province in the southern Philippines.

He assured the military that he would continue to support its efforts to modernize, noting that he solicited help from Russia and China when American senators tried to prevent the sale of guns to the Philippines because of his brutal campaign against illegal drugs, alleged to have killed thousands of urban poor drug suspects.

READ:  Revolutionary gov't remark not an outright statement, Duterte insists

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