MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said he would not talk to Maute rebels who are fighting the military and occupying parts of Marawi City, and that he was determined to keep the Islamic State group out of the country.
Duterte’s latest remarks on the crisis in the Lanao del Sur capital is a change in stance from last week, when he urged Maute militants to talk with him.
“I will not talk to anybody. I will not talk to the terrorists. We’ll maintain our present dialog with the MI(LF) and the traditional mainliners,” he said in a speech to the Philippine Navy in Davao City.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front has joined government forces in its fight against the Maute Group. on Wednesday, MILF fighters joined residents of a barangay in Marawi in stopping Maute militants from entering their village.
‘I will arrest all of you’
Meanwhile, Duterte was outraged by what he believes is the insincerity by the National Democratic Front (NDF)-Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New People’s Army (NPA) towards a peace process he had started with the rebels fighting a separate, long-running conflict.
Duterte said the communists’ exiled leaders would be arrested if they come back to the Philippines. He had previously invited them to return home and even offered them government posts.
“I am warning the leaders whom I have released and who are now talking to the representatives of my government, do not attempt to come home. I will arrest all of you and throw you (in) the slammer. Pagkukulungin ko kayo at lahat ng matanda, pa-arestuhin ko ‘yon uli. [I will have you jailed and all the elderly, I will have you arrested again].”
“And if needed, you will just die there inside the prison. You know you cannot run anymore,” he added.
Kodao Productions reported Wednesday that according to NDF chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili, the organization was still studying the implications of Duterte’s statement, adding that “it will be problematic for people here (NDFP negotiators and consultants in The Netherlands) to go home just to be arrested.”
Kodao quoted Agcaoili as saying that NDF legal advisers were looking for ways to ensure the safety of the consultants.
“When the consultants were given visas, it was made clear to them they should not seek asylum (in Europe). With this new development, they may be forced to do so. But it would have to be their personal decision,” Agcaoili said.
‘Never occupied even a barangay for 24 hours’
Duterte issued the warning against communist leaders after the CPP ordered the NPA to “plan and carry out more tactical offensives across Mindanao and the entire archipelago” in response to the chief executive’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao following the crisis in Marawi.
The CPP said the NPA “must be ready to accelerate the recruitment of new Red fighters as Duterte’s martial law convinces more and more people to take up arms against the rotten system.”
The CPP statement apparently incensed Duterte, who on Wednesday belittled the communists, saying they did nothing but kill people from the government but didn’t have the strength to control a village even for a day.
“And as for the NPA, (Jose Maria) Sison ordered his soldiers to take an aggressive stand. Pero may gusto lang akong sabihin sa inyo — komunista and even the MILF. This is a 50 years war already and nakakaiyak kung isipin mo, 50 years wala naman tayong ginawa kung hindi magpatayan at ang karamihan nating casualty taga gobyerno…almost about a third of our barangay captains have been liquidated.”
“Alam mo for all of the bravado, they never occupied even a barangay for 24 hours and yet when they talk it’s all full of…akala mo sino.”
The President told the communists to stop playing games with him because they would never win in their struggle and prove that they are superior than the Philippine government.
“Sison said he would order his soldiers to engage us. And here comes the statement that they also want to fight the terrorists. At bakit, kung manalo ba ang ISIS dito sa Pilipinas, may papel ba kayo sa mundong ito? Huwag tayong magbolahan. You will be marginalized and outcast because your form of government is always anathema to the rest of the religious zealots in this world.”
“Kayong mga komunista, you’re just wasting your time. You cannot prevail over the government of the Republic of the Philippines. Neither can you find the sanctuary under a communist rule. Huwag na tayong magbolahan. ‘Yan ang mangyayari sa inyo.”
“I tried to talk to you as a matter of fact…ni-release ko halos lahat ang mga preso ninyo…And if there is a breakdown in the peace and order here, because of the participation of the communists in this war against the ISIS, kung gusto ninyong tumulong sa kabila, magpuntahan na kayong lahat.”