‘They are terrorists,‘ Duterte says of communist rebels
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte made it clear that he considered communist rebels as terrorists, days after he signed the anti-terrorism bill into law.
Duterte said in his briefing about the COVID-19 pandemic on early Wednesday morning that communist rebels were against the anti-terrorism law because believed that they should not be classified as terrorists.
“They think that they are a different breed, would like to be treated with another set of law, when as a matter of fact they are terrorists. They are terrorists because I finally declared them to be one,” he said.
“Why? Because I spent most of my days as President trying to figure out and connect to them on how we can arrive at a peaceful solution. Nobody wants a war. I don’t want it, especially me. They know me and I know them, and it was a good rapport while it lasted,” he added, speaking partly in Filipino.
Last Friday, Duterte signed the anti-terrorism bill despite stiff opposition from human rights groups, administration critics, and international bodies. Various organizations believe that the measure could be weaponized even against legitimate dissent, as groups can be tagged as supporters or sympathizers of terrorist movements.
The Duterte administration has initiated a crackdown on the armed insurgency in the countryside, but some leftist groups have taken offense, saying that some of the slain people were not armed rebels.
Before his anti-insurgency campaign, Duterte was notably close to the left, appointing several activist leaders into his Cabinet during the early part of his term.
Peace talks — especially with the Jose Maria Sison, leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), who happened to be his former professor — were also going on for some time.
Duterte insisted that the time to be friendly with communist rebels, which he said was a political necessity, had come to an end. Instead, he said that security should come first.
“When I became the President the story changed simply because, in the ladder of priority, the highest for me would be the security of the state. But before, in the time of politics, that’s a vote, votes are being counted. Naturally, you cultivate friendship with everybody,” he said.
“But there is always a time to be friendly and a time just to be firm, and I did my very best to produce something for the country, but unfortunately… nothing really happened,” he added.
For its part, the CPP has asserted that the United Nations has not labeled them and the NPA as terrorist organizations, which they said runs contrary to claims from state-run media.
“It should be pointed out that the CPP and NPA are also not included in the most recently updated list of ‘designated terrorists’ of Australia, Canada or the United Kingdom,” CPP information officer Marco Valbuena said in a statement last Monday.
“The Party and the NPA have repeatedly declared they are not terrorists. The CPP and NPA are revolutionary organizations that uphold and pursue the Filipino people’s aspiration for national freedom and social justice. Terrorism is anathema to the revolutionary principles of the CPP,” he said.
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