The peace process between government and communist rebels fell on Saturday after President Rodrigo Duterte announced that he was scrapping the ongoing peacetalks with the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF).
Duterte made the announcement during his visit to his parent's grave at the Roman Catholic Cemetery in Davao City to remember his mother Soledad’s death anniversary.
The President called on members of the government peace panel headed by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III and Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza to stop pursuing the peace process.
"I am not ready to resume the ceasefire. I am scrapping peace talks with the communists," the President declared.
"I will just order the Philippine contigent, Dureza, Bello and company to fold their tents and come home," he said.
The President further stated, "peace talks will remain cancelled unless there is a compelling reason that will benefit the interest of the nation."
Duterte, a self-confessed leftist, had sought to improve ties with the communists as part of his campaign promise.
Communist rebels had earlier scrapped its unilateral ceasefire with the government effective February 10 as they scored Duterte for allegedly failing to fulfill his promise to release political prisoners.
In response, Duterte also suspended government's unilateral ceasefire with the communist insurgents.
He cited as reason the attacks of the communist rebels that resulted in the deaths of soldiers.
Duterte also said, he did not guarantee the release of more than 400 political prisoners, as requested by the NDF.
"I never promised to release all political prisoners. You don't release them because they committed a crime,” the President maintained.
"We started with 18 and we came up with 23 leaders and now its 400. Eh kung ganun mag-surrender na lang kami (if that will be the case, we will just surrender)," he said, referring to how the negotiations on the issue evolved.
As for the communist political leaders who were given temporary freedom while the peacetalks were ongoing, the President is ordering them to surrender immediately or face imprisonment without bail.
"They can retire, all of them. For those who are released by the government, they should, on their own volition, return here and go back to prison or else I'll be forced to… I'm alerting the intelligence community to keep track of where they are now," Duterte said.
"Those who were released temporarily to talk with us in Oslo, they should come back and submit themselves to the jurisdiction of this government [since] they are still prisoners. No pardon, No amnesty, no everything," he warned.
The President previously granted temporary freedom to Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, chairman and secretary general of the CPP/NPA, along with 19 other consultants, so they could participate in the peace negotiations in Norway.
"They are all in the Wanted List so I will alert the International Police (Interpol) to arrest them because they are wanted here. I'll cancel their passports," Duterte said.
"I don't know if they will be granted asylum there but with the rebellion, if you are just a member, it's not a grave offense maybe. But the leaders, they should be in prison without bail," Duterte explained.
The President said he tried his best to achieve a peace agreement with the communist insurgents.
"I've done everything. Gumastos ang gobyerno (government incurred expenses). Nag-release ng prisoners (prisoners were released)," he lamented.
"Peace with the communist rebels might not come in this generation," he said.
Duterte noted that the communist rebels had manifested lack of sincerity since the time of Former President Fidel Ramos.
"This time, it should end here... Puwede ba o hindi (can it be done or not)?" the President stressed.
"If the communist rebels want to fight for another 50 years, we will be happy to oblige," he concluded.