MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte said he is "ready to talk" about peace deals that "are favorable to government interest," but is seeking cooperation from the communist movement's armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), by letting go of "hatred."
"I'm going out of my way to move, seek peace with everybody. I'm ready to talk to make deals that are favorable to government interest," Duterte said during a press briefing in Cagayan de Oro City on Friday, March 3.
Asked if this means the government would resume peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF), Duterte responded by saying that it is his duty to ensure national security.
"Look, I will do everything to avoid the Filipino killings somewhere, everything, but the extremists – no deal. But for the [MILF, MNLF] Nur (Misuari), we are talking," said Duterte in a mix of English and Filipino.
Referring to the negotiations with the NDF, he said: "Sabi ko, mag-usap muna tayo. You give me something to start with. Iyong ceasefire dito, ceasefire doon, sundalo ko puro patay at iyong sundalo na binaril ng NPA 73 times, 73 wounds. Iyon ang hindi ko talaga nagustuhan."
(I told them, let's talk first. Give me something to start with. There was a ceasefire here and there but my soldiers were getting killed. There was even a soldier shot by the NPA 73 times, getting 73 wounds. That's what angered me.)
The President said that form of killing indicates hatred, and a peace deal cannot be achieved when there's hatred.
"You are full of hate, then we cannot talk about peace. Mayroon – sa loob mo may hate ka. O, how can it be possible na mag-usap tayo ng ganoon sa puso mo?" he said.
(You are full of hate, then we cannot talk about peace. You have hate deep within. How can it be possible for us to talk if there's hate in your heart?)
Since then, the President has been lukewarm on resuming the talks, saying that he "tried his best" but there can be no peace in this generation.
Duterte on February 20 met with leftist Cabinet members – Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano, and anti-poverty chief Liza Maza – to discuss the scrapped negotiations. Taguiwalo said the President agreed with them that the peace talks should be continued within his term.
Prior to the meeting, Presidential Spokersperson Ernesto Abella announced the government's conditions for the possible revival of the peace talks, which include an end to the NPA's collection of revolutionary taxes and the signing of a bilateral ceasefire agreement.
The NPA has been waging Asia's longest-running insurgency. – Rappler.com