MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte said it will be "too much" to release all 400 political prisoners, as requested by communist rebels.
"The NPA, they wanted release of prisoners, 400. I said I have surrendered, conceded too much, too soon," Duterte said, adding that it is enough that he released Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, top ranking officials of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
According to Duterte, releasing political prisoners should be done only after a successful negotiation.
"Now they want 400 released? My God, that is already releasing all. Para na akong nag-amnesty, which is usually given after a successful negotiation," he said.
Duterte also said it will be difficult to give in to the demands of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) because it may anger the military.
"Sabi ko, huwag niyo akong ipitin kasi the military might not like it, and then if the military might oust me, might kill me, then you have nobody talking to you. 'Pag ang militay ang magalit, hindi naman sila sabihin mo hindi sang-ayon sa akin, but they would always support you if they think you are right," he said.
"400 is 400 and it is as if the talks are over, and there is a successful formula. So, what is there to show?" Duterte added.
He said communist rebels should not ask too much, and accept that he cannot do everything because he has to follow the law.
"Now, if you ask too much, this is a not a country that is authoritarian. I head the executive department but I consult people and the military, especially, in this matter. Of course, nobody stood up right on my face to say it's not good. But during our talks, they would make suggestions, and you can get a good vibration of what they want," Duterte said.
"So timpla timpla ako dito, in the same manner that you have the politburo, that you vote on whatever you want for things to evolve in this talks. Mahirap kasi," he added.
The president also talked about the New People's Army (NPA) withdrawing its 5-month-long unilateral ceasefire with the government, adding he will still deliberate whether to do the same.
"So, nagwithdraw kayo sa ceasefire, so am I supposed to do the same? Gaya gaya puto maya? Go ahead, I will decide in the fullness of God's time. Mahirap 'yan. Akala niyo ako lang kasi nanalo ako tapos ako na. Hindi ako diktador ah, and I have to be very careful," Duterte said.
"What is important is that they have to have respect. Otherwise, kapag nawalan ng respeto 'yan, wala na," he added.