MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday confirmed President Rodrigo Duterte’s earlier statements linking communist rebels to alleged ouster efforts against him.
In the same breath, AFP Spokesperson Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr. said he has no sufficient knowledge as to the President’s claim that the Left has banded with the opposition Liberal Party (LP) in purported destabilization efforts.
“Kung ang ibig sabihin ng ating mahal na Pangulo ay ‘yung pagpa-plano, meron po kaming nakikita na iba. At hindi lang naman po ‘yung oposisyon ang ano dito... Kaya ang binabantayan po talaga ng Armed Forces ay ‘yung mga armadong grupo,” Padilla said in a news conference in Malacañang.
“‘Yung sa side ng politics, may iba pong nagmo-monitor. At sa amin pong side, hindi po namin nakukuha ito kadalasan,” he added.
What is certain, Padilla said, is that communist rebels and other private armed groups in the country have been working to destabilize the government.
“Ang NPA (New People’s Army) po ay patuloy naming mino-monitor. Kasi kadalasan, ang kanila pong ginagawa na activities sa kanayunan, at lalo na diyan sa Mindanao, ay laging naka-link sa kanilang extortion activities,” he said.
“The objective of the NPA is actually to take hold of the whole Philippines… So that is why, always, they are coming from a very hard bargaining position.”
The President earlier accused the LP and the Left of joining forces to destabilize his administration. Both have denied the allegation.
On Thursday, LP president Sen. Francis Pangilinan denied that the opposition bloc was plotting to oust the President. On the same day, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said defense and military officials had no knowledge of such destabilization moves.
Left-leaning groups had welcomed the electoral victory of Duterte, a self-proclaimed socialist, in hopes of pursuing talks with the government and instituting social reforms anchored on their ideologies.
Peace negotiations between the government and rebel sides, however, broke down earlier this year following a string of attacks against state troops allegedly committed by the NPA.
Despite the President's pronouncements that he would no longer pursue negotiations with the Left, there has yet to be a formal termination of the talks, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza earlier said.
The President has been at loggerheads with left-leaning groups since the collapse of negotiations.
Duterte had warned that he might declare nationwide martial law if the communist threat would grow. Lorenzana later clarified that it was "very remote" as communist forces in the country have significantly weakened.
The collapse of the peace talks and the Commission on Appointments' rejection of left-leaning Cabinet appointees Judy Taguiwalo and Rafael Mariano prompted the leftist Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives to bolt the chamber’s super majority last month.
Early in his term, Duterte had vowed to achieve peace with the communist movement, which has been waging Asia's longest-running insurgency.
In a speech Thursday, Duterte again expressed doubts that peace with the communists could be achieved within his term, saying the task was up to his successor.