President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday floated the idea of giving amnesty to communist rebels, days before the expected resumption of peace talks with the National Democratic Front.
While delivering his speech at People's Day celebration in Socorro, Oriental Mindoro, Duterte asked who among the audience are members of the New People's Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
"Sino ‘yung NPA dito? Kayo talaga. Huwag nang maghiya-hiya. Wala talaga ni isa o. Imposible kung walang NPA dito," Duterte said, eliciting laughter from the audience.
(Who among here are members of the NPA? Don't be ashamed. No one? It's impossible there is none here.)
While explaining the powers of the president, Duterte said he can pardon criminals or grant amnesties with the concurrence of Congress.
"Or grant amnesty with the concurrence of Congress kung magka-ayusan tayo... Palagay ko, ma-ano ko. I think that the, I said with the help God, I can, I can.... we can have peace with the communists in my time," he added.
(Or grant amnesty with the concurrence of Congress if we patch things up. I think, with the help of God, we can have peace with the communists in my time.)
"Baka lang, baka lang. I’m... This is not a wild guess but baka kaya kong makuha talaga. You see, we are okay with the NPAs," Duterte said.
(Maybe. Just maybe. This is not a wild guess but maybe I can get it. You see, we are okay with the NPA.)
Peace negotiations broke down early February, with Duterte even branding Reds as "terrorists." Duterte instructed the government panel to pull away from the negotiating table after several soldiers were brutally killed by New People's Army members last month.
After backchannel talks, both parties have decided to resume official peace talks in April in The Netherlands.