MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said he might resume talks with the country’s communist rebels, in what could be a sharp turn for the chief executive following months of hurling harsh words at the group.
“Ang problema ko na lang is itong terrorism, which is really ISIS. ‘Yung Maute was just the face, ‘yung --- Maute ano talaga, ideology ‘to. So I’m facing that. I have to talk to the NPA still. And there’s the droga, which remains a serious problem for our country,” Duterte said in a speech in Cagayan de Oro.
In earlier speeches, Duterte dismissed the possibility that peace between the government and the country’s communist rebels could be achieved within his term.
Duterte said his successor may be the one to hold talks with communist rebels as he is no longer inclined to engage the group.
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.
The President has been at loggerheads with left-leaning groups since the collapse of talks.
Duterte had warned that he might declare nationwide martial law if the communist threat would grow.
Defense Secretary Delfin 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.