MANILA - The government is still keen on restarting peace negotiations with communist rebels even after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the military to crush its armed wing, the New People's Army, Malacañang said Thursday.
Duterte "always leaves a space" for peace negotiations but would not tolerate attacks on government troops, his spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
"He always leaves a space, the window ajar for any peace negotiation with them. But he will not allow the attacks, the assaults against our forces that is why if they attempt to [do] that, the order is to crush them," Panelo told reporters.
The President, who hinted at the possible resumption of peace negotiations last week, asked the military on Tuesday to crush enemies of the state such as the NPA after the group reportedly carried out an attack in Eastern Samar.
Panelo added that Duterte is "sincere" in his attempt to resume talks with communist rebels.
"He always opens talks. But the problem with the other side is they keep on attacking our forces. So you cannot be standing, sitting idly and watch them terrorize or kill our own people, kaya ayaw niya iyon (he doesn't like that)," Panelo said.
"Pero despite that, ‘Ako ay open pa rin, kung gusto ninyong makipag-usap, usap tayo'," he added, quoting the President.
(I am open to talk if you want to talk.)
The President formally terminated peace talks with the rebels in March, saying he would no longer entertain any "persuasions" from the communists.
His recent remarks, however, have a different tune as he emphasized that "the quest for longing for peace has always been there."