DAVAO CITY - After calling for the "neutralization" of the armed Left, President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday softened his stance on the communist rebels, even crediting them for helping him win the presidency.
"Dili nako maabot ang akong naabtan ron kung wala ko natabangi sa taong Davao, apil na ang NPA," he said in his speech during the inauguration of a shopping mall in Davao City.
(I would not be here in this position right now if not for the people of Davao, including the NPA.)
"Wala man koy away ninyo. Dili pud ko gusto mopatay ninyo. Amigo man gyud ta," he said.
(I don't want to fight with you. I also don't want to kill you. We are friends.)
The New People's Army (NPA) is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). The President, through an executive proclamation, declared them as a terror group in December 2017.
Duterte on Friday said the government would give housing and job opportunities to rebels who would lay down their arms.
"Kamong mga 'amazona', maayo pa moari mo diri. Maggakos ta ninyo. Hagkan tamo," he said.
(Female rebels, you're better off here. We'll hug each other. I'll kiss you.)
In March 2018, Duterte said that female rebel fighters should not bear children because they "multiply the problem."
He was also criticized by women and human rights groups over his remarks about shooting the "Amazonas" in their genitals.
But in his latest speech, Duterte said he is resigned to the fact that the rebels would never go away.
"Mamatay lang gihapon ko, naa ang NPA. Mamatay gihapon si Joma Sison, naa ang NPA," he said.
(When I die, the NPA will still be here. When Joma Sison dies, the NPA will still be here.)
Talks between the government and the communist rebels broke down in July 2017 after the government cited the NPA's continued attacks against state troops despite ongoing negotiations. - with report from Claire Cornelio, ABS-CBN News