MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte again asked the members of the New People’s Army (NPA) to lay down their arms before his term ends, and promised them housing and jobs in return.
“If they want to surrender, give them the chance to surrender properly and surrender the firearms,” Duterte said in his latest appeal to the NPA during a pre-recorded public briefing aired Tuesday, January 25.
“Tapusin na natin ‘to. Tutal sinubukan naman natin magbarilan, wala namang nangyari. Pinatay mo lang mga Pilipino,” the President said. (Let’s end this. We tried shooting it out with one another but nothing happened. You only killed Filipinos.)
Duterte reiterated his earlier offer that NPA surrenderees would be given houses and jobs, and if they lacked skills, they can enroll in technical or vocational courses offered by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
“Wala naman kayong silbi diyan. Dito na lang kayo sa baba,” he said. (You’re useless there. Just come down here.)
Duterte, ironically, questioned the need for violence, while defending security agencies’ need for guns. He said those who would surrender their guns would get additional incentives.
“Magsakripisyo ka ng ilang taon diyan. Puta. Para lang pumatay ng tao?” he asked. “Wala ‘yung idolohiya. Maski na meron, karga-karga mo ‘yang baril para pumatay?”
(You sacrificed several years there. Son of a bitch. To kill people? There’s no ideology. And if there is, you bear guns to kill?)
The President also claimed that he did not have any beef with the NPA, but specifically with exiled communist leader Jose Maria “Joma” Sison.
“Alam ko nakikinig kayo eh. ‘Di naman tayo magkaaway eh. Wala naman akong salita na masakit para sa inyo, para lang kay Sison. Kasi ‘yung leader ‘nyo bugok. Pero sa inyo, wala. Pero ang order ko patayin ko kayo. Eh ‘andiyan kayo sa labanan eh. Umalis na kayo diyan. Drop the gun,” Duterte said.
(I know you are listening. We are not enemies. I do not have any hurtful words against you, but only for Sison. Because your leader is a lunatic. But specifically for you, none. But of course, I gave a shoot-to-kill order. It’s because you’re engaged in fighting. So just leave. Drop the gun.)
Duterte also asked the NPA to allow health workers into their communities so that civilians can be jabbed against COVID-19. He said excess vaccines can go to the rebels.
“You allow them to go around at bakunahan ang mga tao. Kung may sobra lang, hindi kayo puwede unahin dahil kalaban kayo sa gobyerno.… Kung may sobra bigay ‘nyo sa NPA para hindi ma-COVID-19,” the President said.
(You allow them to go around and vaccinated the residents. If there are extra, we can’t prioritize you because you are the enemy of the government…. But if there are extra, we will give them to the NPA so they would not catch COVID-19).
Duterte formally ended peace talks with communist rebels in November 2017. Negotiations bogged down when Duterte and Sison could not agree on a venue – Sison feared he would be arrested once he stepped on Philippine soil.
In 2020, Duterte rejected anew the possibility of pursuing any peace talks but every so often, like on Tuesday, the President would call on NPA members to surrender.
In March 2021, activists were killed and arrested during the “Bloody Sunday” raids in Calabarzon, carried out days after Duterte’s pronouncement of a shoot-to-kill order to end the insurgency. Several others who were red-tagged were also killed in the months that followed.
According to Department of National Defense (DND) data, there were at least 232 NPA-initiated incidents in 2020 alone. At least 59% of the incidents happened in Mindanao, where Duterte’s hometown is located.
There were 70 rebel fronts at the start of the Duterte adminisration in 2016. As of 2021, 43 of these fronts remained operational. – with a report from Jairo Bolledo/Rappler.com