Duterte rules out festive season truce with communist rebels

MANILA (AP) — The Philippine president has ruled out any ceasefire or resumption of long-stalled peace talks with communist guerrillas and renewed a vow to destroy the insurgents in his last two years in office.

President Rodrigo Duterte made the remarks on Monday night after the military refused to recommend any ceasefire traditionally observed by troops and the New People’s Army rebels during the festive season. The military welcomed the president’s decision, saying the rebels were “notoriously insincere”.

Duterte’s increasingly hostile position reflects how far he has veered from his initial reconciliatory posture when he offered key Cabinet posts to left-wing activists to foster peace negotiations with the rebels after he took office in 2016. The cordial atmosphere eventually unravelled after government forces and the rebels accused each other of insincerity and of launching attacks against each other.

“There will be no ceasefire ever again under my term as president. For all intents and purposes, the cease-fire is dead,” Duterte said.

He also rejected the resumption of peace talks, saying he could be impeached or shot dead by the police and military if he agreed to what he said was a rebel demand to share power in a coalition government.

“No stupid president will allow it,” the tough-talking Duterte said. “It’s either I will be impeached or the military and the police will shoot me … you will really be killed because you are a traitor of your country.”

There was no immediate reaction from the rebels.

The rebels have not publicly demanded a share in political power in talks with the Duterte administration, although the issue could possibly have been discussed if the negotiations did not collapse and both sides proceeded to tackle an agenda on political and constitutional reforms.

But Duterte said without elaborating that rebel “narratives” show that “you are out to share power. So, I have to destroy you.”