PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte is still open to peace talks with Maoist rebels despite increasing attacks on government officials, his spokesman said on Thursday.
Nothing will change the president’s decision to resume peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines, presidential spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said at a briefing in Malacañang.
But Mr. Duterte won’t hesitate to “crush” the rebels if attacks continue, he added.
“He always leaves a space, the window ajar for any peace negotiation with them,” Mr. Panelo said. “But he will not allow the attacks, the assaults against our forces that is why if they attempt to that, the order is to crush them.”
The government will tighten security in the metro after receiving intelligence information that Maoist rebels have activated their assassination arm to target state officials during the holidays, National Security Adviser Hermogenes C. Esperon, Jr. earlier said.
He said he had received reports that the Communist Party and its armed wing New People’s Army have operationalized their so-called special partisan units to conduct assassination and terrorist activities in urban areas.
Earlier this month, Interior Secretary Eduardo M. Año said a cease-fire with Maoist rebels was unlikely to happen this holiday season.
On Sunday, the military and Defense department said they would tighten security against communist rebels, who remained a public threat. The military has said it won’t recommend a cease-fire.
“The communist-terrorist group has issued an order launching operations to assassinate people who do not submit to their will as they mark their 51st year of existence and terrorism on Dec. 26,” Mr. Esperon said.
Law enforcement and security forces have been advised to take appropriate countermeasures against the “sinister threat” to peace and order, he added.
This comes after a cop and two civilians were killed in an ambush by suspected Maoist rebels in Borongan, Eastern Samar on Friday. Fifteen others were hurt, including a one-year-old child.
Because of the success of the government’s programs to counter the communist-terrorist groups, they are growing more desperate to stem the tide and cling to whatever dwindling influence they have left, Mr. Esperon said.
He advised the public to remain vigilant and report any suspicious individuals to the authorities.
Mr. Duterte on Dec. 6 said he would send an agent to talk to Maoist leader Jose Maria C. Sison in the Netherlands in a bid to resume peace talks.
He said he would send Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III, who led the government panel on peace talks with Maoist rebels. The panel was dissolved in March.
Mr. Duterte wants to hold the negotiations in the Philippines.
Mr. Esperon is the vice chairman of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.
Mr. Panelo said that if Mr. Sison, who is in self-exile in the Netherlands, was serious about the peace talks, he should come home. “if you are sincere, venue is not important.” — Gillian M. Cortez