President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday ordered the arrest of all the legal fronts of the communist New People’s Army for allegedly conspiring against the government.
Also, Duterte said there will be no Christmas truce with the communist rebels, as the government formally announced the cancellation of peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front.
“I don’t want to talk to them, especially after the last ambush on the police in which they killed a four-month-old baby,” Duterte said in Filipino, referring to a Nov. 10 communist ambush in Talakag town in Bukidnon in which a baby was killed.
“If that’s the way they’re going to be, killing civilians, then let’s not talk,” he added.
In a speech at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, the President said of the rebels: “I will simply declare you all terrorists. Terorista kayo pati ‘yung mga legal front ‘nyo, alam ko. Huwag na lang tayo magbolahan, galing ako diyan eh (You’re terrorists and even your legal fronts are terrorists, I know. Let’s not fool each other, I’ve been there),” he said.
“We will treat you as a criminal, period. And we will arrest everybody connected and even their legal fronts,” the President added.
Duterte said the communist rebels will be treated as outlaws, since they are helping to topple the government or promote violence. He likewise invited the “legal fronts” such as the NDF to declare their “revolution” against him.
“You are helping each other, conspiring to topple or whatever to sow terror,” he said. “Even if you sue, even if you stage a revolution, no matter what you do, I don’t care. I’ll declare you as a terrorist group.”
Citing recent violent incidents by the New People’s Army (NPA), Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza said there would be no peace talks until “a desired enabling environment is evident.”
“We are hereby announcing today the cancellation of all planned meetings with the CPP/NPA/NDF in line with President [Rodrigo] Duterte’s directive that there will be no more peace talks with them,” Dureza said, as he accused the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed elements of not showing reciprocity in the desire for peace.
“This is an unfortunate development in our work for peace,” he said. “Never before have we all reached this far in our negotiations with them.”
“Despite this setback (hopefully only temporary), we remain steadfast and undeterred in our unrelenting journey for sustainable and just peace,” Dureza said.
Peace negotiations broke down in May this year following a string of NPA attacks against state troops.
On Tuesday, Duterte spoke of the NPA ambush in Bukidnon and the rebels’ unreasonable demands, including the release of all political prisoners before peace talks.
“That was the last straw,” he said of the baby’s death at the hands of the communist rebels.
In a speech Tuesday night, Duterte criticized the insurgents over deadly attacks against soldiers and police while threatening to categorize them as a “terrorist” group.
“I have decided to cut talks with the NPAs,” he said, referring to the communists’ 3,800-member armed wing, the NPA.
The CPP has been waging an insurgency since 1968 to overthrow a capitalist system that has created one of Asia’s biggest rich-poor divides.
Peace talks to end the conflict, which the military says has claimed 30,000 lives, have been conducted on and off for three decades.
They were revived last year after Duterte -- a self-declared socialist -- was elected president, with Norway and the Netherlands hosting the negotiations.
“You tell the guys there in the Netherlands: I am no longer available for any official talk. Let’s just go to war,” Duterte added Tuesday, referring to rebel leaders living in European exile.
Duterte’s government had already shelved a round of negotiations in May and informal talks in July this year, citing deadly guerrilla attacks on security forces.
Dureza on Wednesday confirmed Duterte’s latest decision in a statement but declined to say if further meetings had been scheduled.
Last month Duterte also accused the communists of plotting with his other foes to destabilize his rule.
He added Tuesday he would issue a proclamation declaring the rebels a “terrorist” organization and order the arrest of more than a dozen rebel leaders he had freed last year.
Dureza said Wednesday he had informed Norway of Duterte’s decision.
“This is an unfortunate development in our work for peace. Never before have we all reached this far in our negotiations with them,” his statement said.
The rebels have yet to comment on Duterte’s announcement but the CPP alleged this week that he was out to “perpetuate himself in power through a one-man rule.” – With AFP