By Genalyn Kabiling
President Duterte has permanently terminated the government’s peace talks with the communist terrorist group, saying the rebels could try to talk peace with his successor instead.
With the peace talks over, the President has also directed the military to step up the operations against the communist rebels in the hope the insurgency could be finished within his term.
“I am officially announcing the permanent termination of our talks between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines,” Duterte said during the 122nd-anniversary celebration of the Philippine Army in Taguig City.
“I’d like to announce that I am no longer entertaining any interventions or maybe persuasions in this democratic state of the Republic of the Philippines. My sense is that you can maybe talk to next President of this Republic one day,” he added.
The President made the announcement after terminating the services of the government peace panel chaired by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III that previously negotiated with the communist group.
The government instead will create a new panel that will supervise localized peace engagements. The panel will reportedly include representatives from different sectoral groups, local government units, and the military.
In November 2017, President Duterte issued Proclamation No. 360 declaring the termination of peace negotiations with the communist rebel group.
The proclamation stated that despite the government’s best efforts, the communist group failed to show sincerity and commitment in pursuing genuine peace talks amid its involvement in acts of violence and hostilities that endanger the lives and properties of innocent people.
In his speech, the President urged government troops to “never waver” in their commitment to perform their duties and “intensify focused military operations against the communist terrorist group.”
He said such operations, alongside the civil-military strategy, would persuade more rebels to surrender and return to the fold of the law.
Duterte also said he would like to finish the war against the communist and the Abu Sayyaf group as well as the drug problem “in about three years.”
“God willing, we’d be able maybe just not really completely eradicate it but reduce the activities or the illegal trade and the fighting to the barest minimum,” he said.
In the same speech, Duterte vowed to continue to distribute government lands to the people as part of the implementation of the agrarian reform program. He acknowledged that the land reform program was one of the ways to make the communist rebels “irrelevant.”
He also warned anew the communist rebels against stealing or illegal occupying lands following their alleged involvement in the land-grabbing incident in Sagay, Negros Occidental.
“If you do that I will order the soldiers and the police to shoot you and to shoot you dead. Huwag kayong mang-agaw,” he said.
“I will give all government lands to all the people of Filipino sundalo. Iyan ang — that was my commitment during the campaign,” he added.
The President, meantime, said the government would continue to rally behind the military and improve their capabilities through the modernization program.
He also guaranteed that he would take full responsibility for any “consequence of enforcing the law, whether, against the criminals, the drugs traffickers of the rebels would want to destroy government.”
“With your untiring loyalty to the flag and to the overwhelming support of our people, I have no doubt that we will win the war against those who seek to sow terror in our communities, especially in the countryside,” he said.