MANILA, Philippines – Seemingly tired of their word war, President Rodrigo Duterte dared communist leader Jose Maria "Joma" Sison to come back to the Philippines and join the New People's Army (NPA) in their fight against the government.
"I dare you, as a leader of the Communist Party, I dare you, come home and fight your war here. Kasi ako nandito. Gusto mo tayong dalawa? (Because I'm here. Youw want us to fight?)" said Duterte on Thursday, July 27.
He was visiting the wake, in Negros Oriental, of policemen killed in clashes with the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
During a media interview there, Duterte said he was tired of exchanging barbs with Sison, his former teacher.
"Ayaw ko nang sumagot sa matandang 'yan (I don't want to respond to that old man)," he said.
But he could not resist another jab at Sison, sayng that if the CPP founder was truly "brave," he wouldn't leave the fighting to the poor rebels who make up the NPA.
"Naglecture-lecture ka noon, buwang ka, tapos you are directing a war from [there] ang namamatay 'yung naniniwala sa iyo," said Duterte, who at one point also called Sison a "coward."
(You would give lectures before, you food, then now you are directing a war from there and those who die are the people who believe in you.)
Only 3 months ago, Duterte also urged Sison to come home but with a distinctly different tone of speaking.
"He can come home. I'll give him freedom of movement. I will not arrest him. I'll even pay for his hospitalization kung gusto niya (if he wants)," the President said back in April.
In the weeks leading up to his presidency, Sison expressed hopes that he would end his exile in the Netherlands under the Duterte administration.
In his Thursday interview with media, the President said he plans to increase ranks of the police, enough to mobilize 10 battalions of the Special Action Force against the NPA.
He also ordered the Armed Forces and Philippine National Police never to use the term "revolutionary tax" and instead to call the NPA's imposition of this tax as extortion or kidnapping.
After questioning Sison's leadership and bravery, Duterte sent word out to NPA rebels to surrender and expect rewards in return.
"Just surrender to your barangay captain. Your barangay captain will accompany you to any police military. I’ll give you a job, automatic, I'll make you a soldier," he said.
After 6 months or so of "training in the mind," Duterte said they would get land, housing, and a job from the government.
Duterte scrapped peace talks with the Left for a second time after his Presidential Security Group convoy got into an encounter with the NPA in North Cotabato.
During the wake visit, Duterte said the families of the policemen are set to receive P520,000. Of this amount, P250,000 will be for a livelihood training program to be conducted by the Department of Trade and Industry. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.