MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said he will order the “mass arrest” of consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines who had been released on bail to take part in peace talks now that the negotiations have collapsed.
“For those who are out temporarily, you just maybe zero in now, because any day, I will order for their mass arrest. Wala akong magawa eh. Ginusto ninyo (I can’ do anything. You wanted it), I’m addressing them through the TV, ginusto ninyo eh,” Duterte said in a speech during the oath-taking of newly-appointed generals and flag officers in Malacañang.
“I gave too much, too soon. I know ‘yung police, military medyo may sentimyento sa akin (the police and military feel bad towards me). You know, I released almost about 32, just… ‘yung Tiamzon na spouses,” he said, referring to alleged Communist Party of the Philippines leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon.
Duterte’s statement on the mass arrest was made a day after h declared the CPP and New People’s Army as terrorist organizations.
He again claimed that the communists eventually want a coalition government, something he cannot give.
He also said violence committed by the rebels should be considered common crimes.
“So they are now considered ordinary criminals. And so if they ambush you, that’s murder, multiple. If they use an explosive, use of explosive is always a murder, then it’s no bail for everybody,” he said.
Duterte also told military officials to expect a longer war of attrition with the communists.
“But kung matapos natin (if we can finish it) during my term, I will be happy. But I am not talking to them anymore,” he said.
He said that he is not ready to go back to the negotiating table even if, as he claimed, the rebels are now the ones demanding for the resumption of the talks.
“Well, you might be ready now, not before. Ang problema, ako na ang ayaw na rin (The problem is I myself don’t want it anymore) because I said — not to win a thing — I concede to your brilliance or whatever, you are the ideologues. But then the simple matter is really a sovereignty is owned by the Filipino people and nobody else,” he said.
He also accused them of “impunity” for waylaying everybody, including innocent civilians.
Duterte terminated peace talks with the communist rebels following a string of attacks against state forces, including the November 9 ambush on police in Bukidnon in which an infant was killed.
“You want to fight the country, create a revolution? Fine. We have been fighting you for 50 years and we will fight again for another 50 years. That is what you want,” he said.
He said he is ready to implement the rule of law by first ordering arrests but added the government is ready for any eventuality should the rebels resist.
“You always insist on the rule of law. We will follow the law. And if you don’t, then the simple thing is to arrest you and place you in prison,” he said.
“If you come by violent resistance, you place in danger the lives of people and the soldiers and the police, we will answer the appropriate action. That is my message to the Communist Party of the Philippines,” Duterte said.