By Genalyn Kabiling
The country could have enjoyed progress a long time ago if the communist rebels had not waged an armed conflict against the government, President Duterte said last Thursday.
The President has blamed the communist rebellion for derailing the nation’s growth during his visit in Leyte, insisting that fighting should stop for the sake of their children.
“Seriously, I’m not joking. Our nation could have prospered a long time ago had it not been for you NPAs (New People’s Army). If only you were working for the progress of our nation,” he said during the distribution of benefits to former rebels in San Isidro, Leyte Thursday.
“What you want is change, but you want to achieve that through armed struggle. So who are the ones preventing Philippines from progressing?” he said.
Mounting an armed rebellion would not force the government to cower in fear and surrender, Duterte pointed out.
“Just because you’re carrying guns doesn’t mean the government should just cower down and give you everything you’re asking for. That’s not right. Not everything you’re asking from the government would bring peace to our communities. That’s the truth,” he said.
And even if the communist insurgency wins, Duterte expressed doubt the rebel leaders could govern the country.
“You want to be a governor and you want to be a congressman. When you get there, your speaker doesn’t know anything. If you suddenly won tomorrow, what will you do in Manila? Who will fly those planes? The pilots won’t agree to fly the planes if it’s you they’re carrying,” he said.
“And so you’re going to have an NPA fly it. And you will all die. So where exactly is this path leading us?” he added.
Duterte told the rebels that the country’s problems can be solved by “evolution,” and not by armed revolution that only leads to killings.
“You NPAs, we can’t solve the problem in the Philippines by revolution. It has to be evolution. It’s going to develop on its own,” he said.
“We will just end up killing each other,” he added.
Duterte instead urged anew communist rebels to lay down their arms and surrender to the government. He also offered them livelihood and other assistance to help jumpstart their lives.
“If you want to fight, go ahead. But I don’t want that. Let’s stop fighting. Let’s stop this. Have pity on your children,” he said.
“I will support you. To those who will surrender, I will provide your salary,” he said, citing skills training and livelihood aid will be made available to the former rebels.
He also assured that rebel returnees would not be harmed by government troops. “I told the military, police, everyone, even the barangay captains, do not hurt them. That is why many of them have surrendered in Davao. But if you want to go back, fine. Return their firearms. Just go back up there, no problem,” he said.