By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
President Duterte said that with the many rebels now surrendering to the government, the military may be able to finish off the New People’s Army (NPA) before 2019 ends.
Duterte made the statement days after Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Joma Sison claimed that the surrenders were just mere propaganda of the Duterte administration.
“The Duterte regime looks ridiculous and even funny by staging the fake surrenders of NPA fighters and their supporters,” Sison said.
Duterte, in a speech in Pampanga, expressed hope that as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will be able to finally overcome the threat of the rebel group as their numbers start to dwindle.
“So we are trying to really go out and just embrace them as brothers and at no other time, maraming armas (there are several firearms). If they become decimated by the number of surrenderers, maybe the Armed Forces can finish them off next year at mawala na ‘to (this will all be over),” he said.
Duterte praised the local chief executives in Mindanao and the security forces for being active in convincing NPA rebels to return to the fold of the law.
“They can take whatever initiatives they want but… And the killing continues but at no other time are the NPAs surrendering with their firearms,” he said.
“So mabuti na lang, marami na ang nag-surrender (it’s good that a lot of them are already surrendering) and… Also, I’d like to congratulate the Armed Forces and everybody, ‘yung mga mayors pati pulis (the mayors, and the police), they are active in convincing people,” he added.
Duterte also expressed concern for those who have surrendered because he knows that the remaining NPA rebels will try to hunt them down, especially because they decided to also surrender their firearms to the authorities.
“It is taboo to them here and in Mindanao, everywhere, na ‘pag nag-surrender ka tapos ibigay mo ‘yung armas mo sa sundalo o sa pulis, so talagang hahuntingin ka (when you surrender with your arms to the authorities) because that is anathema, a taboo,” he said.
Over the past months of 2018, Duterte has hosted a meal for three batches of former NPA rebels in Malacañang and in Davao City. During these occasions, the President outright criticized Sison, saying his former professor thinks he own the government.
Duterte’s meeting with the former rebels came almost three months after he terminated the peace talks with the Reds, citing their continuous attacks against government forces despite the then ongoing negotiations.
But despite the growing number of NPA rebels surrendering, President Duterte said he is still not ready to give the peace talks with communist rebels another chance.
According to the President, the number of NPA surrenderers growing by the day will only fuel the anger on those still fighting the government.
“Not at this time. Maybe. Alongside with the mass surrenders is also the ferocity of those fighting,” Duterte told reporters in Barangay Balo-i, Lanao del Norte two weeks ago, adding that he is still not satisfied with the number of rebels who already surrendered.
“Lumalaban pa rin sila, marami pa sila eh (There are a lot of them still fighting). I am not satisfied by the numbers of surrenderers,” he pointed out.
“The barometer is if they give up or — dalawa lang ‘yan (there’s only two options). They give up or they’re all dead,” he added.