PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte said he will proclaim the New People’s Army a terrorist organization, and crack down on leftist groups such as the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan for conspiring with communist rebels.
“Beginning now, there will be no more talk about rebellion because rebellion is a [bailable] offense. We will file terrorism, murder and arson charges,” Duterte said in Filipino at a press conference in Davao City Saturday.
Calling the NPA “a bunch of criminals,” the President said he is no longer inclined to continue the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
“I’m sick and tired of their destroying property and equipment… and their killing of innocent people, including a four-month-old girl,” Duterte said, referring to a Nov. 10 communist ambush in Talakag town in Bukidnon in which a baby was killed.
The NPA local command admitted killing the infant, apologized to civilians and offered to recompense them, but the death angered Duterte, who said the military will now go after the NPA as mere criminals and no longer view them as rebels fighting for a cause.
The NPA only pretends to fight for the people but they are killing the poor, he said.
Duterte also warned of an impending crackdown on Bayan and other leftist groups for conspiring with the armed communists.
“Now it’s a great conspiracy between Bayan… We will study that and launch a crackdown. I’m getting tired of their nonsense,” he said.
In protest actions during the 31st Asean Summit in Manila, militant groups headed by Bayan called Duterte a “fascist.”
During the earlier part of Duterte’s administration, the President welcomed members of Bayan and other left-leaning groups in Malacañang, when he was still determined to push peace talks with the communist group.
Duterte ordered the government’s peace panel to halt talks with the communist group after the NPA attack on a convoy of the Presidential Security Group in Cotabato in July.
Duterte’s threats drew angry reactions from Anakbayan, a leftist youth group.
“Progressive groups have been at the forefront of opposing Duterte’s war on drugs, all-out counterinsurgency ops, and martial law in Mindanao that trample on human rights as well as his perpetuation of anti-people neo-liberal policies. Duterte’s threats will not intimidate us into submission,” said Anakbayan chairman Vencer Crisostomo.
“That Duterte is contemplating a crackdown against activists and progressive groups speaks much of his antipathy to any criticism and his thirst for absolute power. Repression is the logical consequence of equating all dissent with detabilization,” he added.
A military source on Sunday said the Armed Forces welcomed tagging the NPA as a terrorist group because this would eventually cut off funding from international organizations that support the communist party.
“Such declaration will hasten and pave the way for blocking some financing that they may be getting from sources. So if that is formalized, then we can do more that what they are doing now to block their support,” the source, who requested anonymity, said.
Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Major Gen. Restituto Padilla said the government has done its part and negotiated with sincerity with the NPA, but they bungled it.
“We totally agree with the commander-in-chief in calling the NPAs terrorist because it is clearly reflected in the numerous criminal, lawless, terrorist acts that they have been committing against the defenseless and innocent civilians,” Padilla said.