MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte practically slammed the door on further peace talks with communist rebels and ordered the Armed Forces to train its sights on the New People’s Army once it defeats extremist gunmen in Marawi City.
Duterte bared his decision in a speech to government forces during his visit to Marawi on Thursday, his first to the war-torn Lanao del Sur capital since the start of the fighting that prompted him to place Mindanao under martial law on May 23.
Earlier, he had ordered government negotiators to drop backchannels talks scheduled this weekend with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, which represents the communists, after five personnel of the Presidential Security Group were wounded and a militiaman killed in an incident involving the NPA in Arakan, Cotabato Wednesday.
From an earlier offer to help combat extremists, which security and defense officials turned down, the communists have since taken a more belligerent attitude and ordered more attacks on government targets citing intensified military operations against the NPA and even hinterland civilian communities since Duterte declared martial law.
“Ayaw ko nang makipag-usap sa kanila. Marami na akong sundalo na pinatay nila. Marami na akong pulis na pinatay nila (I don’t want to talk to them anymore. They have killed many of my soldiers. They have killed many of my police) …” Duterte declared in Marawi.
“Huwag kayo masyadong magkumpiyansa kasi there is a strong resurgence. Nabubuhay na naman ang NPA (Do not be complacent because there is a strong resurgence. The NPA is resurrecting again),” he told the troops.
“Pagkatapos nito … pagkatapos niyong makuha ‘yung mga ulol d’yan (sa Marawi), mag-reorient tayo, NPA naman kasi marami silang utang sa atin (After this … after you get the fools there, we will reorient and it will be the NPA’s turn because they owe us a lot),” he added.
Pointing the recent killing by rebel assassins of two Marines returning from marketing in Palawan, Duterte said: “Mabuti na lang nasa Republika tayo kung hindi (It’s good we are in a Republic) — we’re bound to obey the rules of — kung hindi, putulin ko na sila ng ulo (otherwise I would cut off their heads).”