President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the military to “destroy” the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, as the communist insurgency celebrates its 50th year in operation.
“You have to destroy them. Destroy them, no human rights commission will believe. I assume full responsibility. You’ll see, I’m the only one who will be sued,” Duterte reportedly said at a speech in front of the 10th Infantry Division in Compostela Valley on Saturday, December 22.
“You need not see a gun but if they draw first, in the traditional sense that they want to draw, just draw as well. If you make a mistake run back inside your camp and do not go out,” he added.
The statements came despite the leftist insurgency’s holiday ceasefire. The CPP-NPA, the longest running communist insurgency in the world, is celebrating its 50th founding anniversary on Wednesday, December 26, 2018.
CPP founder Jose Maria Sison, who is still currently exiled in the Netherlands, hit Duterte for his statements as his group celebrated its founding anniversary.
“Duterte’s mania for mass murder is really getting worse every day,” he said in a recent statement. The communist leader called the president, a former student of his at the Lyceum of the Philippines University and with whom he once had cordial relations, “the mastermind of state terrorism and the No. 1 violator of human rights” in the Philippines.
A number of groups voiced their opposition to Duterte’s orders.
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in a statement said that Duterte’s declaration could also harm legal and civilian groups, some of which the president has tagged as the CPP-NPA’s “legal fronts.”
“Without mentioning any specific legal organizations, the order makes all those red-tagged by the military on sheer suspicion and reckless association as included and allows the military to usurp judicial determination at the expense of due process and the justice system,” the group said.
The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, a group of church leaders concerned with peace talks between the leftists and the government, urged Duterte to take heed from House Resolution 2339, a recently-passed lower house resolution which asks Duterte to revive the peace process.
Broken down relations
Duterte, prior to his victory in the 2016 presidential race, was known for a relatively warm relationship with the communist rebels as the mayor of Davao City. He reportedly previously acted as a mediator in the government’s conflict with the insurgents.
The beginning of his administration in 2016 was characterized by peace initiatives with the group. Duterte approved a six-point peace agenda that included an accelerated timeline on peace talks and appointed public servants nominated by the insurgency to his cabinet — Judy Taguiwalo as social welfare and development secretary and Rafael Mariano as agrarian reform secretary.
Despite the start of peace talks, the relationship turned sour. The CPP-NPA withdrew its support for Duterte’s war on drugs, calling it “un-democratic.”
Its request to release a number of political prisoners also went unheeded, causing the lifting of the ceasefire which characterized the peace talks.
Duterte on his part claimed that the NPA was still conducting operations against the military, hence his refusal to release the prisoners. In February 2018, he cancelled the peace talks. The Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees which protected the rights of the consultants involved in the talks was also cancelled by the government that month.
Hopes to revive the peace process started in April 2018 after another round of peace talks was held. But it was the NPA which decided to withdraw from the talks after Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao in July 2018 following the Marawi Siege.
Earlier in 2017, the appointments of Taguiwalo and Mariano were rejected by the Commission on Appointments. In December that year, Duterte released a proclamation declaring the CPP and NPA as terrorist groups.