Ushering in local projects, Duterte gives ‘kill’ order vs communist rebels
President Rodrigo Duterte kicked off on Friday night the distribution of projects to villages in Cagayan de Oro province that the government said had been freed from the communist insurgency.
But along with his assurance of funding was a direct order for the police and military to “kill” and “finish off” members of the New People’s Army (NPA) — and “don’t mind human rights.’’
Tapping a P16-billion budget, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac), with Duterte as its chair, is giving P20 million each to 822 villages nationwide that are said to have been cleared of rebel presence or influence.
According to National Security Adviser and NTF-Elcac vice chair Hermogenes Esperon Jr., the President will be going to the regions—starting in Northern Mindanao on Friday—“to see to it that socioeconomic developments are brought to the barangays.”
‘In the public minds’
In Northern Mindanao (Region 10) alone, Esperon said, government forces had dismantled three NPA fronts since 2016, freeing a total of 119 villages.
Projects in the barangays receiving funds through the task force will be launched on March 15 or upon the President’s orders, he added.
“Under your direction, we will continue to fight the terrorists in the front lines, in the mountains, in the media platforms, in the public minds, in the international scene, and in the courts,” Esperon said, addressing Mr. Duterte.
In his remarks, Duterte called on the police and military to kill the rebels and disregard human rights.
“If you clash with [the rebels], kill them, kill them. Finish them off,” Duterte said. “That’s my order, I will [be the one to] go to jail. There’s no problem with it. I don’t have qualms about doing the things that I have to do.”
On Saturday, a member of the Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives described the President’s statement as “the most horrendous order to come from a leader of a country. Those words could only come from a real terrorist.’’
“Instead of issuing incensing ‘kill, kill, kill’ statements, it would be more prudent to pursue a policy that would echo the call of the United Nations Security Council for a ‘vaccine ceasefire,’” Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite said.
The lawmaker was referring to a UN Security Council resolution in February calling for a “sustained humanitarian pause” in conflict areas to facilitate the unhampered delivery of COVID-19 vaccines.
Esperon said that on top of the projects Northern Mindanao would be getting through the task force, the region under the Duterte administration had been a recipient of land reform initiatives (6,500 hectares awarded to 5,755 beneficiaries), free education (75,200 students enrolled in state-run schools), and irrigation projects (77,000 ha of farmland covered).
He said the Department of Agriculture had also poured funds totaling P800 million each into the five provinces comprising the region, while the labor department will be providing jobs to 100 per village, with a monthly salary of P4,000.
—WITH A REPORT FROM JULIE M. AURELIO
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