Firm about the need to complete the land reform program to resolve the communist insurgency, President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to distribute all government land before he steps down in 2022.
The President said the rebellion in the countryside will not end if the measure taken would be entirely through the bullet.
Mr. Duterte said he will start distributing government lands in Masbate.
Speaking at the distribution of livelihood packages to residents at the “Negosyo Serbisyo sa Barangay” event organized by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Chief Executive has instructed Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary John Castriciones to place the entire province under his agency’s land reform program.
I’ll put Masbate under land reform, believe me. With or without the Cabinet, we can.
“I’ll put Masbate under land reform, believe me. With or without the Cabinet, we can. I still have three years. I will emancipate the entire Philippines starting with government land,” Mr. Duterte said in his speech.
“I will return and tell the Secretary of the DAR, ‘Castriciones, make study because I am determined to give it all.’ When my term ends, all government land would have been distributed,” he added.
The President also met with former New People’s Army rebels in Cataingan town, who have been integrated to the Comprehensive Local Integration Program of the Department of Interior and Local Government.
Mr. Duterte vowed to give each NPA rebel his own piece of land.
Mr. Duterte awarded P65,000 worth of livelihood seeding kits to 65 beneficiaries. Close to P500,000 worth of financing projects under the DTI’s “Pondo para sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso” program were also given.
Calling Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) chairman Jose Maria Sison’s revolutionary principle as “stupid thinking,” President Rodrigo Duterte stressed that the communist insurgents, particularly the New People’s Army (NPA), will never win in the country.
“If you join the NPA, we are foes. They can’t claim that they will win. What do you think will happen to this country?” the Chief Executive said at a gathering of barangay officials from the National Capital Region (NCR) in Pasay City late Tuesday.
“Let us see. They claim that they can occupy Rizal province. What will happen to us here or in Mindanao? Why? Will the police or the army (allow it)? It would be a fight to the death. It will not happen that way. That’s stupid thinking. You can’t get the Philippines not even a barangay,” Mr. Duterte lamented.
They can’t claim that they will win. What do you think will happen to this country?
The President likewise called Sison and the communist movement’s efforts to thwart the government a “failed dream” and directed police and military troops to “shoot to kill” rebels whom he called an “irritation,” sowing fear to the people.
“I have several helicopters. If I use them, I’ll order to mow them down with bullets. the whole forest. I am just holding my patience, but they can be an irritation. Just two holduppers or kidnappers are already headaches,” he expressed.
“Those are extortionists. They keep on asking, what will happen if I order the military ‘shoot to kill?’ Don’t take prisoners,” Mr. Duterte added.
Still, the President is keeping the door open towards peace with the enemies of the State should both sides decide to resume peace negotiations.
“So, I am just being patient. I am leaving a small space, a small window. It might be of use to us. But just in case you’d want to resume, at least there’s a window we can use to send through our (negotiators),” he said.
The NPA has been engaged in armed conflicts with the government for five decades making the communist rebellion the longest-running insurgency in Asia. Just recently, the Duterte administration has set a new three-year deadline to finally contain all insurgents in the country.
Serious for talks?
An estimated 4,000 armed communist rebels are still scattered across the country while around 50,000 are part of various underground movements, according to the Department of National Defense (DND).
National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said the rebels are serious in reopening peace talks provided that the government shows its sincerity to do the same.
The NDFP is the legal negotiating arm of the communist movement.
Duterte, in a speech during the command conference in Bicol recently, said his administration was still open to resuming the peace talks with the leftist groups.
Agcaoili insisted they are not the ones who terminated the peace negotiations with the government.
“We were not the ones who terminated it. Duterte terminated the peace talks in November 2017. Then he declared the CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization. The burden is on him whether he likes to resume or not,” Agcaoili said.
The NDFP negotiator said peace negotiations have always been NDFP’s priority as long as basic reforms — economic, social and political — in Philippine society are addressed.
As with the President’s past controversial remarks, Malacañang insisted he was just “obviously joking when he suggested to ‘kidnap’ and ‘torture’ officials” of the Commission on Audit (CoA).
The Chief Executive slammed anew the accountability measures of the agency that slows down government work and the implementation of some of his administration’s priority projects.
“It’s very obvious that the President was just joking,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a text message to reporters.
“The President, he is just like me. They call the character as sutil (mischievous), which means if you contradict our beliefs, which is not bad or illegal, eh, we will keep on irritating the critics,” he added.
The President called out the CoA in a speech and mentioned, in jest, for the kidnapping and torture of personnel who “make life hard for local government officials.”
Mr. Duterte called out the agency for what he perceived as difficult processes that has become obstacles to governance.
Panelo, however, stressed the President will stick to his “style.”
“The more you criticize his style, the more he will stick to his mischief and irreverence,” the official said.
“But at the same time, PRRD is chiding CoA not to derail ongoing government projects by certain stringent protocols that go against the letter and intent of the law,” he added.
with Elmer N. Manuel