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Duterte: ‘We’re beating the Reds’



President Rodrigo Duterte has declared that the government is winning against communist groups, saying there were fewer rebel activities since the creation of an anti-insurgency task force.

Duterte made such a claim Thursday during his meeting with officials of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and its regional unit in Quezon Province, a known Maoist rebels hotbed.

“Today, I stand before you to say with confidence that we are winning the war against communist insurgency in our country,” he said, drawing cheers from the audience.

The Commander-in-Chief noted that while the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing New People’s Army (NPA) continue to perpetuate violence by killing soldiers, police, and civilians, rebel activities had been on a “very small scale” at present.

He added that the NPA has lost its relevance to Filipinos, as he slammed rebels for killing soldiers, policemen, and local officials sympathetic to the national government.

“There has been really quite a reduction of the NPA activities. They are in Mindanao, but limited to Northern Mindanao, including Davao City. There are just two or almost none. And I hope it will also happen in other regions,” he said.

The President maintained warm relations with the CPP and the NPA when he was still mayor of Davao City.

Maoist groups respected Duterte by ceasing military activities in Davao City. They even openly supported Duterte’s presidential bid in 2016.

Many personalities allied with the Maoist Left were given government posts after Duterte won the presidency. Duterte broke up their alliance after the peace talks between the government and the CPP-NPA-NDF (National Democratic Front) collapsed.

In November 2017, the President terminated the peace negotiations through Proclamation 360.

Duterte expressed confidence that the government will put an end to the five-decade-old communist insurgency in the country.

“With our unrelenting spirit, I am certain that we will overcome the challenges ahead. Rest assured that the collective strength of the Filipino people is behind you as we work towards genuine and lasting progress for our motherland,” he said.

During his speech, the President attributed the success of the government’s anti-insurgency drive to the state forces under the guidance of the NTF-ELCAC and its regional offices.

He said the task force had succeeded in convincing thousands of communist rebels to return to the fold of the law by expanding socio-economic projects in rural areas, commonly known as the Barangay Development Program (BDP).

Among the projects included in the BDP was the construction of farm-to-market roads, school buildings, and houses, which Duterte said were needed in the provinces.

“Since your inception, you have brought significant improvements in the government’s fight against communist insurgency through a whole-of-nation approach and in the delivery of basic services in conflict-affected areas and vulnerable communities,” he said, addressing the NTF-Elcac.

“In all these efforts, we recognize the importance of grassroots participation of our people, especially at the barangay level, in the attainment of the peace and serenity that we crave for,” Duterte added.

In December 2018, Duterte signed Executive Order 70 creating the NTF-Elcac to end insurgency — one of his major campaign promises during the 2016 presidential campaign, alongside eradicating corruption and criminality.

The administration is seeking P28.1 billion to fund the task force in 2022, higher than the group’s P16.4 billion budget last year, despite calls for its abolition after a series of red-tagging activists.

Duterte floated the possibility of resuming peace negotiations in 2019, on the condition that CPP founder Jose Maria Sison, who has been in self-exile in the Netherlands for some three decades now, would return to Manila for a one-on-one talk. However, Sison insisted that peace discussions should be done in a neutral venue.

Defense officials have since initiated “localized” peace engagements to convince armed rebels to lay down their arms and return to the fold of the law.