Who’s not afraid of Duterte?

Who’s not afraid of Duterte?
The tough-talking Chief Executive makes a goodwill gesture to communist rebels but doesn't get anything in return quick enough

President Rodrigo Duterte’s colorful threats – the kind you’d expect in cheesy action flicks, not in real life – have prompted thousands of drug users and pushers to flock to local gymnasiums to pledge a vice-free life to authorities.

The potency of his spoken words was evident even before he assumed office. When it was clear that he had won the presidency in May, Duterte said he would impose a curfew on minors. He didn’t even have to issue any official order – his words were enough to inspire several local governments to issue city ordinances to realize his wishes.

Duterte’s words of warning usually break through even the hardest of earwax – almost everybody listens and takes heed. Well everybody, it seems, but  the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), whose leaders might have figured out Duterte more than the average Filipino. Or have they?

Duterte seethed when he learned that the New People’s Army had attacked government militias in Davao del Norte two days after he announced a unilateral ceasefire with communist rebels in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA). (It was his latest gesture of goodwill to the Left, a few of whom have joined his administration.)

The President first expressed his anger over the incident while speaking at a military camp in Lucena, Quezon, on July 28.

“Sinabi ko sa kanila (CPP), ‘Give me an answer by tonight because kapag tomorrow wala, tatanggalin ko ‘yung [ceasefire]….Eh balik tayo sa away. Kung iyan ang gusto ninyo. If you do not honor and you kill a single soldier or a CAFGU, who is also a soldier of the Republic, eh sabi ko, kalimutan na natin ito. Fight na lang,” he said.

Duterte demanded an explanation from the CPP,  as well as “action” on its members involved in the incident.

This was the first deadline he set on the CPP: July 28, midnight. There was no explanation nor action. The leadership said it would have to investigate the incident first, especially after it received word that the other side allegedly initiated the attack and that the NPA was just on “defensive mode.”

On Friday, July 29, an even angrier Duterte said the assertion that the NPA was in a defensive position was “not a good response.” He said that when he announced the ceasefire in his SONA, he expected the CPP to reciprocate right away with its own ceasefire declaration.

Hindi ko kayo tinatakot. Kung ayaw ninyo, okay sa akin. We fight for another generation. Okay sa akin, wala na tayong magagawa,” he said, addressing the CPP.

(I’m not threatening you. If you don’t want it, it’s fine with me. We fight for another generation. It’s fine with me, we can’t do anything about it.)

Duterte said he wanted to shout out expletives, but tried to keep his cool. “I’ve dealt with you in good faith. Tell me if you’re not ready to deal with me in the same manner.”

Then he announced his new deadline to the CPP: a reciprocal ceasefire declaration by 5 pm of the next day, July 30.

The deadline lapsed; the CPP did not announce a ceasefire with the government.

What else could the President do? He did as he warned – he ended the government’s truce with communist rebels. Exiled communist leader Jose Maria Sison called Duterte a “hothead” who was “quick to judgment.”

How this would affect the peace negotiations with the NDF, set to resume on August 20, remains to be seen. – Rappler.com

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