Reds not impressed with Duterte’s anti-US rhetoric
SIERRA MADRE MOUNTAINS—Communist guerrillas warned that a peace deal with President Duterte’s government is unlikely to be reached if he won’t end the Philippines’ treaty alliance with the United States and resist foreign control by other countries he’s trying to befriend, like China and Russia.
In a clandestine news conference in a New People’s Army guerrilla encampment tucked in the harsh wilderness of the Sierra Madre mountains southeast of Manila, regional rebel commander and spokesperson Jaime Padilla outlined the advantages and downside of talking with Mr. Duterte to end one of the world’s longest-running Marxist insurgencies.
The dozens of mostly young guerrillas in muddy boots in their rain-soaked encampment on a wooded plateau reflected their resiliency but also showed the tough conditions that have long hampered their insurgency.
Young rebels cooked rice, pork and chicken in soot-covered pots over wood fire while others gingerly puffed cigarettes while watching the peripheries. The nearest army camp lies just 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) away. When an air force Huey helicopter flew overhead, rebels at the news conference briefly paused and watched the passing aircraft.
But the guerrillas have also found themselves in a dilemma due to Mr. Duterte’s moves they find reprehensible, including the killings of a large number of poor drug users that sparked accusations of massive human rights violations against him, a recent decision to allow dictator Ferdinand Marcos to be buried in a heroes’ cemetery and threats to shift to dictatorial rule if rival politicians derail his antidrug crackdown and try to impeach him.
While the President has gotten attention with his angry threats to end the presence of American forces in the country, stop joint combat exercises with US troops and terminate a defense accord with Washington, Padilla said Mr. Duterte has, so far, not formalized these utterances and instead has walked back on many publicly stated policies.
No reason for alliance
“While the Duterte government hasn’t abrogated all these treaties, the New People’s Army will have no reason to enter into a friendship or alliance with him,” Padilla, 69, told a small group of journalists escorted into an encampment ringed by mostly young rifle-wielding guerrillas.
“That’s not negotiable because as long as the US military has a presence, the imperialist influence on Duterte’s government will remain,” said the bespectacled Padilla, who wore a Mao cap with his 9 millimeter pistol within reach on a wooden table.
Other rebels echoed Padilla’s remarks. “We support Duterte but not 100 percent,” said a 24-year-old rebel who identified himself as Guiller. “He’s projecting himself as anti-US and pro-poor but that’s still mostly rhetoric. If the problems persist, the revolution will go on.”
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