President Rodrigo Duterte warned that there will be a “little trouble” for the country as he ordered the military to end the communist rebellion as soon as possible.
“I do not think that we can afford to wage a war another 53 years. So I am telling the military to kindly end it now. We cannot afford to pass it on to the next generation, baka hindi na nila makaya [they might not be able to handle it.] It has to be now,” Duterte said Tuesday in a speech in Quezon City.
He said the campaign against communist rebels “will not be bloody” but will cause “a little trouble” which will attract criticism.
Earlier in his speech, Duterte hinted yet again at a “very, very radical change” in the government in the coming days. He then acknowledged the military men present at the event, which marked the 31st anniversary of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
Duterte had earlier said the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), had “crossed the red line” for supposedly being behind the killing of four police officers and the spate of killings on Negros island.
Rebels have denied this and pinned the blame on cops who are allegedly part of a vigilante group called the “Duterte Death Squad.”
The Duterte administration has ramped up efforts against communist rebels since peace talks between them and the government broke down in 2017.
A number of communist leaders and consultants have been arrested as Duterte refused to resume the talks. The government has also tried to entice armed communist rebels to surrender, promising them cash, housing, and livelihood assistance.
The administration has since sought to formally tag the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA) as terrorists. It has also created a national task force to end the communist armed conflict.
Security officials have also been targeting university campuses, which they suspect of being communist recruitment hotspots.
The CPP has said that they maintain their policy of keeping the doors “always open to peace negotiations,” but stressed that the “prevailing political environment under the Duterte regime is not conducive” to its resumption.
Duterte led the awarding of 87,000 hectares of land to CARP beneficiaries, which includes the last remaining plots of land in Hacienda Luisita.
More than a hundred farmers received land certificates covering 112 hectares of the 6,000-hectare Tarlac estate owned by the Cojuanco family, relatives of former Presidents Corazon Aquino and Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
Duterte said he has nothing against the Aquino family, but pointed out flaws in their land reform policy.
“The greatest aberration sa land reform was the Philippines was declared, the whole of the country, as a land reform program area, pero tinanggal nila ang [Hacienda] Luisita [but they excluded Luisita],” Duterte said.
Republic Act No. 6657, or the CARP law, allowed land reform beneficiaries to receive shares of stock instead of actual plots of land.
Hacienda Luisita farmers insisted that they wanted to receive land and not stocks. The Supreme Court would only rule in favor of the farmers with finality in 2012.
Duterte pointed out that the government can finally quell the communist rebellion — the longest-running in Asia — if it improves its agrarian reform program.
“Kunin mo ang initiative mula sa komunista. What they’re parlaying is land. Unahan na natin, eh ‘di ibigay na natin,” he said.
[Translation: Get the initiative from the communists. What they’re parlaying is land. Let’s get to them first, let’s distribute the land.]
In response, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) that Duterte “is a peddler of fake land reform.”
“Duterte’s land reform aims only to transform the countryside to foreign-owned plantations,” the CPP said on Twitter.
There could be more land up for distribution in the future, but the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has received reports that some agricultural lands in Hacienda Luisita were illegally converted into commercial or industrial lands.
“If it was converted without any conversion order, then that’s definitely illegal,” DAR Secretary John Castriciones said.