President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the incoming Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to end the communist insurgency, the Palace said Friday.
This, after the President, said he will arm former rebels with high-end guns and tanks if members of the Communist Party of the Philippines “really want trouble” and harass them.
In a briefing, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the Palace is confident that Lt. Gen. Noel Clement would continue “to uphold the high degree of professionalism, the dedication and the integrity” that soldiers have for the flag and country.
Clement previously headed the AFP Central Command and the Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division.
He also served as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations of the AFP.
On Thursday night, President Duterte considered the possibility of arming former insurgents who laid down their arms since they are now part of the government.
“Do not worry. You are part of the government. We are now together. If the communists will harm you, and they really want trouble, I will give you a new firearm better than this,” he told rebel returnees.
Duterte said this during the disposition of arms of 727 members of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army at Camp Peralta in Jamindan, Capiz.
Now known as the Kapatiran sa Progresibong Lipunan, the group is a breakaway faction of the New People’s Army, the CPP’s armed wing. The group signed a peace agreement with the government in 2000.
“You are now part of the government. We are now bound to protect you. And if you think that you are now in danger, and I think you will die, I’ll give you new firearms,” he said.
The President also warned communists to keep its hands off the former rebels who surrendered to authorities and decided to go back into mainstream society.
“I’m warning you [CPP-NPA-NDF]. If you begin to fuck with these guys [former rebels], I’ll arm you...I’ll give you firearms. If you join the government, then all of us will be part of the government,” he said.
He also joked that he will give military tanks and helicopters to former rebels.
For his part, CPP founder Jose Maria Sison shrugged off Duterte’s pronouncement.
“At any rate, there can never be enough renegades to protect themselves, the Duterte regime and the ruling system against the ever-growing revolutionary movement of the people,” Sison told Manila Standard in an online exchange.
He also said the proliferation of arms in the hands of military and former rebels “unwittingly” helps the revolutionary force.
“Such arms widely distributed eventually fall into the hands of the NPA which uses the strategy and tactics of guerrilla warfare. More than 95 percent of the arms of the NPA have come from the ambushes and raids on the reactionary military, police and paramilitary units,” he said.
Last week, Duterte ordered an all-out war against the CPP-NPA, six months after the termination of peace talks with the National Democratic Front.
In his speech, Duterte also asked the rebel returnees to take advantage of government programs and assured them of government support.
“I encourage all returnees to take advantage of this opportunity to start anew and lead a productive life with your families and loved ones,” he said.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Armed Forces of the Philippines will grant rebel returnees livelihood assistance.
They will also receive start-up shelters through the National Housing Authority.
Clement on Friday vowed to use the whole-of-nation approach so that the security threats posed by the communist insurgency can be defeated once and for all.
“I think the most critical factor now is how to bring in everybody on board against this fight because it is not possible if the Armed Forces [of the Philippines] does it alone or if the local government units are the ones battling this problem. It has to be the whole country, the whole nation. This is a national problem so we have to address this as a people, collectively, so that our country would achieve lasting peace,” he told reporters when asked how he planned to expedite the defeat of the CPP-NPA.
Clement also vowed to create a bigger dent on the CPP-NPA’s ranks and its capability to create terror and atrocities with the whole-of-nation approach.
He said efforts against the threat of terrorism and the ongoing modernization of the AFP, especially in its territorial defense capabilities, would continue.
Clement, who is also incumbent head of the Cebu-based Central Command, expressed gratitude to Duterte for being selected as the next AFP chief.
Clement is a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1985 and a batchmate of outgoing AFP Chief-of-Staff, Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., who will formally retire from service next week. With PNA