MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte said communist rebels are the top threat to the Philippines, amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic currently engulfing the country.
In a public briefing in Malacanang late Monday on the COVID-19 situation in the country, Duterte said communists pose more danger to national security than the Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf Group.
"Actually, the number 1 threat to the country, hindi Abu Sayyaf. Hindi 'yang mga terorista of no value. Itong mga high-valued targets, itong mga komunista. Kaya ang utos ko talaga sa Armed Forces, sa sundalo, upakan mo. Upakan mo," he said.
(Actually, the number one threat to the country is not the Abu Sayyaf. Not those terrorists with no value. The communists are the high-valued targets. So my order to the Armed Forces, to the soldiers, take them out. Take them out.)
The decades-long insurgency by the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), "will place in jeopardy the democratic values the Filipinos have enjoyed for the longest time," Duterte said.
The President blasted the NPA's alleged raids on the distribution of the first tranche of the social amelioration program (SAP) and warned them against launching another offensive against government distributors when the second wave of cash aid begins.
"This time ipatikim mo sa tao 'yung kanila talaga. 'Yung una kinuha ninyo eh," Duterte said.
(This time let the people have what are really theirs. You took the first one.)
He earlier certified as "urgent" an anti-terrorism bill, which has sparked protests and stoked fears of rights violations due to its broad definition of "terrorism" and for provisions giving wider surveillance powers to authorities.
The stricter anti-terror measure comes as the Philippines continues to battle against the raging COVID-19 pandemic.