Terrorism is top PH threat, NPA worse than Abu Sayyaf – Duterte
MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has labeled terrorism as the number one problem causing headaches for officials in the government, and communist rebels are far worse than extremist terrorist group Abu Sayyaf.
Duterte, who addressed the nation on Monday night amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, said that he had ordered the military to fight the rebels from the New People’s Army (NPA) instead of being killed.
“Terrorism is number one in our list — actually the number one threat to the country. It’s not the Abu Sayyaf — not these terrorists of no value. The high-value targets are these communists,” the President said, speaking partly in Filipino.
“That’s my order to the Armed Forces, to the soldiers, is: Hit them. Hit them, because if they’re the ones who get hit, even the police officers who accompany government workers to help the people get killed,” he added.
According to him, terrorist groups have been taking advantage of the health crisis, as law enforcement agencies are more focused on helping fight the pandemic.
As of now, the country has one of the highest COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia, only behind Indonesia and Singapore. Health officials said that there are 30,682 confirmed COVID-19 cases nationwide, with 1,117 deaths and 8,143 recoveries.
“This has been taken advantage of by these forces arrayed against us — the Abu Sayyaf, who are terrorists with no ideology, the communist party, with ideology, but more pernicious in effect, which could undermine the peace and security of our country,” Duterte said.
Social media has been full of discussions about the government’s alleged prioritization of the Anti-Terrorism Bill, which will amend the Human Security Act of 2007, over the woes caused by the pandemic.
Vice President Leni Robredo, a member of the opposition, has even questioned the timeliness of a bill considering that thousands were still sick with COVID-19.
Duterte said that the bill, which Congress passed after the House of Representatives approved a Senate version, was still being reviewed by his legal team.
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