MANILA- After lashing out at the Left in his State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Rodrigo Duterte did what no other President in recent memory had ever done.
Surrounded by presidential guards, Duterte stood on the protest stage and took the mic for around 10 minutes, directly addressing militants allied with communist groups with whom he had recently abandoned peace negotiations.
Amid a drizzle, Duterte responded to the Left's criticism of his recent actions, including the declaration of martial law in Mindanao to quell terrorists that have laid a siege on Marawi City. Congress had recently extended the declaration until the end of the year on the President's request.
He said military rule in the restive south “won’t last forever,” as the militants opposed the proclamation citing alleged human rights violations committed by soldiers.
“Kung tingin niyo sa akin kalaban, huwag na tayo mag-usap,” a stern Duterte said in an unexpected dialogue with protesters.
Last year, he met with leftist leaders after his SONA inside Batasang Pambansa under a friendlier atmosphere.
"Kung gusto niyo ako patayin sige, sino may granada diyan?Paputukin mo na," said Duterte, even as his security men scanned the crowd.
The President also slammed leftist groups for disrespecting him, citing the New People’s Army's attack on a Presidential Security Group convoy in Arakan, North Cotabato last week.
“Mag-respetuhan tayo… huwag niyo ako i-ambush,” he said.
The protesters, who continued to wave their banners and flags as the President spoke, chanted: "Peace talks, ituloy."
Duterte then responded: "'Yan ba ang gusto niyo? Paano kayo mag-peace talks kung mapatay ako? Sino kausapin niyo?
In his second SONA, Duterte tagged the communist rebels as “enemies of the state” who deserved to be bullied.
“I used to be friends with the NDF [National Democratic Front of the Philippines],” Duterte said in his SONA.
“Times have changed because God placed me here. Bully daw ako. Tarantado pala kayo, talagang bully ako. P****g i*a. Talagang bully ako especially to the enemies of the state,” he added.
Ending the decades old communist insurgency has been a top priority for Duterte, but talks have been on and off under the feisty leader, who has accused the communists of being two-faced because of their continued armed attacks against government forces.
The President has also lambasted the rebels for collecting “revolutionary taxes” from businesses and ordinary people.
The friction between Duterte and communist leaders also escalated when the President placed the entire Mindanao under martial law to address the terror threat posed by Islamist extremists.
Last Friday, Duterte said he has decided to end talks with the rebels, possibly putting an end to hopes that the communist insurgency in the country will end under the firebrand leader, who once branded himself as a socialist.