Duterte to troops: Shoot armed NPA terrorists

By Christina Mendez

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President Rodrigo Duterte said his team is now preparing the executive order declaring the CPP-NPA and the National Democratic Front (NDF) as terrorists. He said the executive order will effectively treat the communist rebels as criminals. PPD/Karl Alonzo, File

MANILA, Philippines — After scuttling peace talks with the communists, President Duterte has ordered security forces to shoot armed rebels even as an executive order is being prepared to declare them as terrorists.

Duterte also ordered the military and police to re-arrest the top leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) earlier released as consultants of the moribund peace talks.

“So if there is an armed NPA there or terrorist, if he’s holding a firearm – shoot,” Duterte said during a ceremony at the Sual wharf in Pangasinan on Wednesday.

Duterte said he is prepared to defend his men against allegations of human rights violations in killing NPA rebels.

“Do not answer that issue of human rights. You say, ‘Go to Duterte. It is and was his order’,” he said.

Duterte said his team is now preparing the executive order declaring the CPP-NPA and the National Democratic Front (NDF) as terrorists. He said the executive order will effectively treat the communist rebels as criminals.

“I am preparing now. They are preparing the executive order declaring them to be terrorists and they will be afforded the treatment of being criminals,” Duterte said.

“There will be no filing of cases under public security like rebellion because rebellion is considered sometimes a noble undertaking, it’s only because you want your country to do better,” he added.

In the same speech, Duterte talked about his decision to cancel the peace talks with the communists.

“Because I think that they are not really serious… (they are) just biding their time, they do not have the second echelons to carry the fight and they just want to be comfortable,” he said.

Duterte criticized the CPP-NPA over deadly attacks against soldiers and police in the countryside while the NDF is holding peace talks with the government.

Duterte had already shelved a round of negotiations in May and informal talks last July, citing treacherous attacks on security forces.

“I have given too much, too soon and I know that the military were complaining. But I said, ‘You know my job is to seek peace with everybody, to attain peace for my country.’ You have to understand that,” Duterte narrated.

“There will be no talks with the NPAs now, and I told them, ‘We have been fighting this war 50 years ago,’ and they want another 50 years,” he added.

“I said, I have pleaded even to go down on bended knees to ask everybody at the start of my presidency. We should talk peace not war… that is not my job as President to promote wars, it’s not my job to encourage violence.”

On his orders to re-arrest the freed NPA consultants, Duterte said there are “conditionalities,” explaining that some rebel leaders cannot be arrested because of old age and humanitarian considerations.

“Also out of humane reasons. For one, those who were above 70 like me, I’m getting tired of going out to find them. Anyway, they cannot go far… they cannot climb those mountains there. You will find them in a hospital or in a room just resting their tired old bodies,” he said.

While he has ordered an all-out war against the NPA, Duterte said he still hopes that the conflict will not get out hand.

“I do not want to start a real violent war. But if the NPAs, just like the terrorists would do it, then we will give them the favor,” he said.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte acted within legal bounds when he directed security forces to kill any armed NPA rebel.

Roque pointed out it is prohibited under the law to take up arms against the government.

“So naturally, when you are bearing arms against the government … you are supposed to implement the law and then again the President had the power to implement the law,” he said.

Under international law on armed conflict, any armed rebel is a legitimate target. 

Roque said Malacañang has not issued the executive order declaring the CPP-NPA-NDF as terrorists. 

There is no timetable for the declaration, “but the President said he will do that,” the spokesman said.

Still open

Chief government peace negotiator Silvestre Bello III said the President’s plan to declare the CPP-NPA-NDF as terrorist groups would dash all hopes of getting the stalled peace negotiations back on track.

“That would end everything. That is because we cannot negotiate with terrorists,” Bello said.

He said the door is still open despite Duterte’s order to terminate the peace talks with the communists.

“The negotiations are terminated right now on orders of the President, but he is open to resuming them once the environment for their resumption becomes conducive,” Bello told reporters yesterday.

“That means no more ambush, like the one they conducted in Bukidnon in which civilians, including a child, were killed. No more hostilities. That is the environment that could lead to the resumption,” he said.

Bello said he or presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza would soon formally communicate to the NDF the President’s decision to end the peace talks. 

The NDF has said it needed a formal notice of such decision.

The military, for its part, said the President has already ordered a full offensive against the NPA even without formal notice to end the peace talks.

“We are hoping that with our heightened operations we will have more accomplishments in the days ahead because we will not rest on what we have already started, fighting these NPA terrorists as ordered by our commander-in-chief,” Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Public Affairs Office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said.

Arevalo said the AFP is currently monitoring the movements of the freed NDF consultants upon orders of the President to re-arrest them.

“We are still awaiting any specific guidance. While doing so, the military is now conducting intelligence monitoring,” Arevalo said.

A total of 21 NDF consultants were freed to allow them to participate in the peace talks with the government. Among them are top NPA leaders Benito Tiamzon and his wife Wilma. – Jaime Laude, Jess Diaz

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