Communist rebels pose the “number one threat” to the Philippines’ national security, President Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday, the Philippine Star reported on Wednesday.
At a coronavirus task force meeting on Monday, Duterte called Communist rebels the “number one threat to the country.” He condemned their recent attacks on government troops distributing aid to struggling Filipinos amid the economic strain caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the Philippine News Agency, the president reminded those present at the government meeting that Communist rebels previously “drew a blade across the neck of a captured policeman” escorting government workers as they distributed aid to Filipinos in Negros Province. He referenced the ambush and slaying of four police officers last July, for which the New People’s Army (NPA), the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) armed wing, claimed credit for.
Duterte said that “forces arrayed against” the Philippines were taking advantage of the distraction and vulnerabilities caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic to further compromise the nation’s stability.
According to the president, the “forces” include the ISIS-linked Abu Sayyaf terrorists, the most violent jihadist group in the southern Philippines, and the CPP. According to Duterte, the CPP poses a greater threat to the country than the jihadists, which he described as “terrorists with no ideology.” By contrast, the president said he believes the CPP has an ideology with a “more pernicious” effect that “could undermine the peace and security of our country.”
“Terrorism is … the number one threat to the country. It’s not the Abu Sayyaf—not these terrorists of no value. The high-value targets are these Communists,” Duterte said at the meeting.
According to Duterte, the NPA has “been troubling the country for five decades” and has “undermined the national security of the country.” He said that left unchecked, the prolonged Communist insurgency “could undermine the peace and security of our country not only [in] this administration … [it] can transcend to the next generation.”
“At what point will the country suffer a downfall? I don’t know. But if I do not do my duty now as president, as the other presidents did when it was their time, we might just bargain away, place in jeopardy the democratic values that the Filipinos have enjoyed for the longest time,” he warned.
Duterte said he remained hopeful that the NPA would not try to sabotage the next wave of government aid soon scheduled for distribution, but added that the Philippine armed forces stand ready to respond to any national security threat posed by the rebels.
“That’s my order to the armed forces, to the soldiers, is: ‘Hit them,’” he affirmed.
“When I say I will kill you, even if I won’t do it myself, we will kill each other, including me,” he said, referring to the NPA’s subversion of the Philippines’ democratic values and national sovereignty.
The NPA is officially designated a “terrorist organization” by the Philippines, the U.S., the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.