Fifteen communists dead after Duterte goes on warpath against rebels

File picture of President Duterte on a recent visit to embattled Marawi City

Fifteen communists have been killed in clashes after President Duterte vowed to go on the warpath against rebels.

A few days after the president ordered troops to shoot any armed rebels, security forces killed 15 New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in two separate encounters near Nasugbu town, Batangas, yesterday (Tuesday, November 28).

In the first confrontation, five rebels were killed while three were wounded in 20 minutes of fighting. A sixth fighter later died in hospital. The second clash left nine NPA fighters dead, including one suspected to be a high-ranking commander.

The fighting follows the president’s decision to name the NPA as a terrorist group.

Speaking today (Wednesday, November 29), the president ordered troops to continue offensives. He said: “If there is an armed NPA there or terrorist who is holding firearms, shoot and tell any – I will answer.”

He added that he would be answerable any accusations of human rights abuses. “You just shut up,” he said. “Do not answer if that issue of human rights comes up. You say, ‘You go to Duterte. It is and was his order’.”

The president said he decided to end talks when a series of NPA attacks led him to conclude the communists were not “serious” in pursuing peace.

He also reiterated the shoot on sight policy. “And so?” He said. “You are destroying my country and you expect me to pat you on the back and say, dahan-dahan ka lang? (you go easy?”

Previously, the Duterte administration had asked to remove the the NPA and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) from its list of terrorist organisations. The US declined the request.

The president has also ordered the re-arrest of all National Democratic Front (NDF) consultants who had earlier been freed so they could join peace talks. This order also covers founder Joma Sison, his former college professor who lives in exile in the Netherlands.

For his part, Sison has today questioned the reports of yesterday’s battles, suggesting that civilians may be among the dead.

Speaking to ABS-CBN News, he said people should not trust the “claims of false news of the psy-war officers of Duterte’s army, the same you cannot trust the false news of his troll army”.

“Human rights organisations should be able to go there and investigate whether there has been a real fight between the New People’s Army and the reactionary army.” he added.

Sison, meanwhile, branded the president a “swindler” and said the NDF was “sick and tired” of the president’s decision to terminate peace negotiations three times within six months.

Jesus Dureza, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, said the president “really went out of his way” for with the communists but terminated them due to continuous NPA attacks.

“He (Duterte) came to a point where he said there is no more enabling environment that will be conducive to the continuation of peace negotiations so he decided to cancel it finally,” Dureza said.