Palace hosts 2nd dinner for ex-NPA rebels tonight

DAVAO CITY  , Philippines  — President Duterte is set to host another dinner tonight for a new batch of former rebels.

Some 241 former New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas who have surrendered will be feted at a dinner with the President in Malacañang. They came from the provinces of Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley.

The surrenderees, 38 of them female, left for Manila yesterday on board two military transport planes from the Davao International Airport.

They are part of the 683 former rebels from Eastern Mindanao that were presented to the President last Dec. 21.

The trip to Manila, including the visit to Malacañang, aims to give the rebel returnees a better perspective on life, particularly in peace building and nationalism. It is part of the government’s continuing activity of reintegrating the former rebels into mainstream society, officials said.

Part of the Manila tour of the former NPA rebels will be a historical and heritage trip to Rizal Park and Intramuros in Manila while a welcome ceremony will be held today at the Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo to be hosted by AFP chief Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero.

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Before the dinner with the President, the former rebels will also get a chance to interact with other former comrades who now work as advocates of peace and development.

The tour of the second batch of former rebels is expected to conclude tomorrow, while the tour of a third batch of NPA surrenderees will be determined later by the Appointments Office of the President.

Three more NPA rebels surrendered in Ilocos Sur over the weekend.

The former rebels would undergo vocational courses with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

“We are committed and more than willing to accommodate NPAs who want to return to the fold of the law and take part in building a nation of peace for progress and development,” Eastmincom commander Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. said.

Last November, Duterte terminated the peace talks with communists, whom he accused of pushing for a power-sharing setup that goes against the 1987 Constitution.

The President was also angered by the continuing NPA attacks against government forces and civilians and the collection of revolutionary taxes from businesses.

Duterte, who had a friendly relationship with communists when he was mayor of Davao City, has also declared the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the NPA as “terrorist organizations.”

Duterte said the resumption of peace talks with the communists would depend on the recommendation of the military.

Duterte said he had informed officials of Norway, the third party facilitator of peace talks, that he would have to consult with the Armed Forces before deciding on whether to resume the talks.

“So I’m talking to the communists. The Norwegian officials came here to explore the possibility of talking again. I have to consult my military people. Why? They are the ones dying, not me. I said ‘I will talk to the military.’ If you would agree, I might,” the President said.

During his meeting with Norwegian special envoy to the peace process Idun Tvedt in Davao City last Thursday, Duterte said the Philippines is committed to peace but it should be attained “with due regard for the national interest.”

But if the President would have his way, he would not even think about negotiating with the communists.

“I am not thinking about it even. Why? Because now it’s beyond my control… How do you feel? What’s your take? It is good for us to fight forever or should we talk?” Duterte said during the 20th anniversary of the Chinese-Filipino Business Club in Manila.

While raising the possibility of resuming the talks, Duterte said he would increase the bounty for every NPA member killed to P30,000 from P25,000, and even joked about decapitating rebels.

Duterte reiterated that he would save money if he offers bounty instead of launching a counterinsurgency campaign.

“If I offer P25,000, I will save money. That’s true. Next week, it will increase. I will increase it to P30,000. Then I can increase it to P100,000, they are the ones who will kill each other,” the President said.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the resumption of peace talks is unlikely for now.

“While they are calling for the resumption of the peace talks, they continue to use violence. While we want peace, holding peace talks will not mean anything if they are not interested in genuine peace,” Roque said.

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