President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday revealed he has ordered the release of 14 convicted communists from the national penitentiary.
“I just released about 14 prisoners from Bilibid, iyong mga komunista na convicted,” Duterte said in a speech before the Filipino community in Hong Kong, without going into detail.
Duterte revealed this just as the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines are set to hold a fifth round of talks in the Netherlands on May 27 to June 1.
The announcement also came after Duterte’s meeting with top New People’s Army (NPA) leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon in Malacañang.
Since assuming the presidency, Duterte has been seeking to reach a durable peace deal with the Reds, which have been waging one of Asia’s longest-running communist insurgencies.
Duterte once ordered the suspension of peace talks because of the persistent attacks by communist guerrillas against government troops.
The president eventually restarted peace negotiations, but this did not deter the communist rebels from carrying out attacks.
He said that, while there are “irritations” as the government and the Reds hold talks, he cannot afford to fight anymore since “I’m a president for peace. I cannot be a wartime president.”