MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte hosted a dinner for communist rebels at Malacañang on Monday night, September 26, two weeks before the second round of peace talks in October.
Duterte announced the dinner earlier in the day. "I have to meet the Tiamzons and the communists. They're having dinner tonight," he said in a press conference.
He was referring to Benito Tiamzon, a key figure in New People's Army (NPA) operations before his arrest in 2014, and Benito's wife Wilma, also a high-ranking member of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
"Oh, pinagbigyan ko. Okay na ba iyong lason natin diyan?" the President joked during the press conference.
Members of the National Democratic Front (NDF), the political arm of the CPP-NPA, were present during the dinner.
"They will break bread with me. Sila lahat mga komunista (All the communists), they're going to host me," Duterte said during the press conference.
Duterte again asked the military to support the peace talks amid supposed rumblings on the ground. The CPP-NPA is behind Asia's longest-running communist insurgency.
"Look, kayong mga military. Minsan kasi sila... I've heard that there are rumblings... kasi natural enemy. Marami ring patay na military 'di ba?" he said.
(Look, you guys from the military. Sometimes... I've heard that there are rumblings... because the NPA is considered a natural enemy. Many soldiers died as well, right?)
"I told them that you know, guys, I am a president. I am your commander-in-chief, yes? That is a title for war. Unfortunately, I am not a war-time president. My main job, my main task is really to seek peace for my land that's why inuna ko na iyan sila (I am prioritizing them). Even before I assumed office, nagkaintindihan na kami mag-usap (we agreed to talk)," he added.