MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday said he will guarantee the safety of leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to give them a chance to talk to the government.
Speaking to members of the military in Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, the president explained his decision to declare unilateral ceasefire with CPP.
"I have to talk to the MI(LF), and to the MN(LF). Si Nur, pati si Murad, and they are ready to talk about peace."
"Kasi malala ito, matagal na. Marami nang namamatay dito on both sides, and if I remember right, 'yung Cotabato Uprising started in 1972 na halos umakyat na ang mga rebelde doon sa PC Hill and the fight was already there," Duterte said.
According to Duterte, he only wants peace between the government and the rebel groups.
"Eh kasi ngayon, 70 years old, 71, magreretire na lang ako eh napasok pa ako dito sa presidency. Wala na akong ibang hangarin kundi na ang kapayapaan na lang ng bayan ko. Kung maari, I plead peace with everybody. I do not want any single loss, doon sa kanila o dito sa natin," he said.
Duterte said he will ensure the safety of leaders Jose Maria Sison, Nur Misuari and even Murad Ebrahim in order for the peace talks to proceed.
"So I initiated doon sa Cabinet, talks about peace, and I have to start with releasing the leaders. Not release or anything but safe conduct pass for (Jose Maria) Sison, (Nur) Misuari. Si Murad (Ebrahim), walang kaso. At sabay sabay na lang ang usapan natin towards the end of the year," he said.
He, however, said that both the MILF and the MNLF should first severe their ties with the Abu Sayyaf.
"Ang gusto ko lang marinig sa MILF, pati sa MNLF, na 'yang Abu Sayyaf na yan, wala na ang connection nila. Kasi 'yung armas ng Abu Sayyaf, 'yun 'yung armas nila noon," Duterte said.
"Kasi kung ayaw nilang bitawan o nakakonekta pa rin sila sa Abu Sayyaf, I do not think there will be a significant result," he added.
Duterte said he is willing to talk peace with the rebel groups, but also instructed the military to be ready in case the peace talks fail.
"My duty is to find peace for everybody, for my countrymen. Eh countrymen natin sila, kaya lang nawala sa landas. There is always a time to talk about war and to talk about peace," he said.
Duterte lamented that the quest for peace "has dragged on for so long."
"Kung ginusto din nila, nasa kanila 'yan. Ceasefire is ceasefire. Nag-usap kami ng liderato nila kagabi, in front of the generals sa Congress. Doon ako sa holding room, nandoon din sila. Naglalantaran na rin sila eh," he said.
"Ngayon, wait and see lang tayo. Marami pa naman tayong problema. Pero, we will be ready. We will be ready for an instant failure. Hindi nagkatuluyan, eh di sige, bakbakan, walang magawa. Ngayon, kapag nag-surrender na sila sa Mindanao, solo, eh di maghahanap tayo ng away," Duterte added.
Duterte, during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), declared a unilateral ceasefire with leftist rebels as part of his bid to end Asia's longest running Maoist insurgency.
"To the CPP [Communist Party of the Philippines], let us end decades of ambuscades, we are going nowhere and it is getting bloodier by the day. To immediately stop violence in the ground, restore peace in the communities, I am now announcing a unilateral ceasefire with the CPP-NPA-NDF effective immediately and call on...the NDF and its forces to respond," he said.