MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte warned communists that if they turn violent, he won't hesitate to order the use of bombs against them, even if civilians could get hurt in the process.
"I'm warning you rebels. Marami akong armas (I have many arms). You do some fighting there, I will freely use all the jets to bomb you. And if I hurt civilians, then it's part of the territory," he said on Tuesday, August 21 in Cebu City.
"Huwag kayong masyadong atake-atake ng kampo (Don't attack camps) because if you start, I will not hesitate to bomb you," continued the President.
He also had a warning for the local government executives who were present at the League of Municipalities: they could lose power over local police if they provide resources to communist rebels.
"Never associate yourself with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). Never give them aid. It will be to your chagrin at the end of the day if you do that. You will lose power over the police," said Duterte.
As of July, over 180 local officials have been stripped of their police powers after being linked to corruption or the illegal drug trade.
Duterte terminated peace negotations with the CPP but recently greenlighted guidelines for localized peace talks. Given that these localized talks involve the local governments and local chapters of the New People's Army, it's not clear how Duterte will draw the line between "association" with communists and merely implementing the localized talks.
Duterte also said the Left no longer have any redeeming quality after their attacks and ambushes that have led to the deaths of police and military personnel.
"Then if we talk again, I will not be nasty but – don't because they are the enemy. A lot of my police, almost thousands of them and the policemen and soldiers died. That can't be corrected by peace talks," said Duterte in a mix of English and Filipino. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.