MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday bared that communist leaders recently admitted losing control over their cadres on the ground as rebel attacks on government forces continued despite an interim joint ceasefire in effect amid ongoing peace negotiations.
In a speech in his hometown Davao City, Duterte said communist leaders confided that they had lost the reins over units of the movement's armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA).
“Nag admit sila sa akin sa Malacañang na hindi nila kontrolado lahat ng operating units ng NPA dito. Sorry na lang, patuloy natin. Gawin ko yung 5-year term ko, then alis na ko. But that conflict will continue, and that will continue to punish kasi sige lang tayo sa patayan, parehas lang naman tayo mga Pilipino,” Duterte said in a mix of Filipino and Visaya at a groundbreaking ceremony for a housing project in Davao City.
Duterte recently met with NPA leaders Wilma and Benito Tiamzon and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace panel chair Fidel Agcaoili in Malacañang.
The supposed admission of the communist leaders reflect earlier observations made by the military and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana that rebel leaders no longer had full control over their cadres on the ground.
Duterte meanwhile warned communist rebels that there would be no significant progress in the negotiations unless the NPA rebels stopped attacking government troops.
“Kayo namang mga NPA, meron tayong problema dito. Sabihin niyo sa mga commander niyo, I will not sign anything unless tumigil kayong mag-away. Sinabi ng mga sundalo ko at pulis sa mga NPA na tigilan na ang makipag-away, pero ang mga NPA sige ang pag-ambush,” Duterte said.
“Alam kong madami kayong NPA na nakikinig dyan. Hindi tayo nagkakalayo sa hangarin natin pero if we won’t stop killing people hindi rin ako.”
The president issued this appeal as the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace panels are set to meet on May 27 to June 1 in the Netherlands for the fifth round of negotiations.
This also comes as the NPA refused to cease attacks against government forces.
In Quezon and Laguna, at least 12 people were reportedly injured in a series of attacks by communist rebels on Wednesday.
Five policemen, five soldiers and two civilians were wounded in the 7-hour gun battle that started in Lucban, Quezon and ended in Luisiana, Laguna.
The NPA also took responsibility for the attack at a facility of Lapanday Foods Corp. in Davao City.
The attacks took place even as the government and the communist leaders agreed on an interim joint ceasefire during the fourth round of talks last month.
The interim joint ceasefire shall be effective until the two sides reach a deal for a permanent one.