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Rody on NPA: No more talks, I’ll give them war

President Rodrigo Duterte expresses his high praises to the troops of the 1st Infantry Battalion (1IB) who were preparing to leave at the Laguindingan Airport in Cagayan de Oro City on October 20, 2017. The 1IB were among the first units deployed in Marawi City when the battle against the terrorists broke out almost five months ago. Ace Morandante/Presidential Photo

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte is abandoning the peace talks with the communists and has threatened to shut down mining firms paying the so-called revolutionary tax to rebels. 

“As of yesterday, I have decided to cut talks with the NPA (New People’s Army),” Duterte said during a tribute to fallen soldiers in Taguig City yesterday.

Duterte said the communists have launched attacks that harmed innocent civilians and made demands that he could not give in to. 

“I told (presidential peace adviser Jesus) Dureza and (government chief negotiator Silvestre) Bello: ‘You tell the guys there in Netherlands, I am no longer available for any official talk. Giyera na lang tayo (let us just wage war),” Duterte declared. 

“So I have to build a strong army,” he added.

Duterte also issued a stern warning against supporters of the communist rebels, including mining firms that provide them funding. 

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“All mining companies are paying taxes to the NPA. Without exceptions. Their mining won’t thrive if they do not give money,” Duterte said. 

“We have to decide once and for all. If I go against the communists, then everybody has to reconfigure their relationship with the NPA. If you support them financially, I will close you down,” he added. 

Duterte said he is prepared to go to war with the communists, who have been waging an armed struggle against the government for 50 years. 

“If they want war, I will give it to them. I cannot do anything because I tried to talk to them and asked them if we can reach a settlement,” the President said. 

“If you feel like the killing of Filipinos should stop, then I would be happier. But they are asking me for things which I cannot give,” he added. 

Duterte called off peace negotiations with the rebels last July after the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) ordered the NPA to attack government troopers enforcing martial law in Mindanao. 

The CPP, which is waging Asia’s longest-running insurgency, called on its armed wing the NPA to launch offensives in response to Duterte’s plan to put Mindanao under martial law until the end of the year.

The President imposed martial law in Mindanao after jihadists laid siege to Marawi City last May 23. Marawi has been freed from terrorists last month but Mindanao remains under martial law because of the presence of extremists in other provinces. 

Another contentious issue was the demand of the communists to free rebel leaders facing criminal charges. The government rejected this, saying it cannot be done until a bilateral ceasefire agreement is signed.

“When I was President, they are asking for something I cannot give because it is not mine to give and since they are very unreasonable, I said stand down but they do not follow,” Duterte said.

Duterte slammed the NPA for the ambush in Bukidnon last Nov. 9 that left a four-month-old infant and a policeman dead.  

“I will admit it, I am a fascist. I will categorize you already as terrorists,” he said. 

Duterte also claimed some militant groups are legal fronts that are “in conspiracy” with the NPA. 

Last week, Duterte said he would issue a proclamation classifying the NPA as a terrorist group and threatened to launch a crackdown against leftist organizations. 

“I’ll be issuing a proclamation. I will remove them from the category of (a legal) entity or at least a semi-movement which would merit our attention – placing them, just like America – terrorists,” Duterte said.

Duterte warned he would exert all efforts to file a slew of criminal charges against the communists.

“So beginning from now, there will be no more rebellion because rebellion is just a light offense. It can be bailable except for the leader. We will file (terrorism), murder, everything. Arson with murder. Everything. Because I would consider them criminals already,” he said. 

The communist insurgency that began in 1968 and which the military said is now mostly waged in Mindanao has claimed an estimated 30,000 lives.

The rebels have been in off-and-on peace talks with the government since Duterte was elected last year.

Both sides declared unilateral ceasefires, but these did not last.

Duterte suspended formal peace talks in May after both sides failed to resolve a dispute over the CPP order for the NPA to step up attacks.

Nothing new

The human rights group Karapatan said there was nothing new in Duterte’s threat to send all leftists to jail.

“His threat to crack down on Bayan and other progressive groups, with the twisted logic that they are anathema to development and are conspiring with the Communist Party of the Philippines, is a tired and unoriginal repetition of the same plot weaved by known fascists like Marcos,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of Karapatan.

The crackdown threat is not at all surprising, especially after US President Donald Trump’s visit. 

“Duterte is now shamelessly parroting US declarations and even planning to list the New People’s Army as a terrorist group,” Palabay said.

Palabay defended Bayan and other militant groups, saying they “have long fought for the basic political and economic rights of the people.” 

She added that protests and dissent by these groups are helpful in pushing for reforms and changes in Philippine society. 

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) condemned Duterte for his crackdown on militant groups.

“As if the daily political killings of activists and leaders of progressive organizations are not enough, Duterte now wants a crackdown of all his critics whom he tagged as subversives,” said Danilo Ramos, chairman of KMP.

“This is an open red-tagging not only against Bayan but against all critics of the Duterte administration. Duterte is obviously laying the ground for an open fascist rule and a possible nationwide martial law declaration. This is yet another proof of his very fragile leadership and very volatile political situation. Duterte is desperate to hold control of his presidency,” Ramos said. – With Artemio Dumlao, Ding Cervantes, Ben Serrano

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