MANILA (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN): As legal challenges to the Anti-Terrorism Act mounted, President Rodrigo Duterte defended the controversial measure on Wednesday (July 8), saying it was not meant for law-abiding citizens but for communist rebels and terror groups responsible for bombings, mostly in Mindanao.
He said communist rebels, who have been fighting the government for over 50 years and engaged in on-and-off talks, “think that they are a different breed.”
“They would like to be treated with another set of laws, when, as a matter of fact, they are terrorists, ” he said.
Duterte said communist rebels were terrorists “because we — I, finally declared them to be one.”
“Why? Because I spent most of my days as a President trying to figure out and connect with them on how we can arrive at a peaceful solution (to the rebellion), ” he said, expressing exasperation over the decades-long communist insurgency.
Duterte initiated peace negotiations with the communist rebels even before officially taking his oath as President and later ordered ceasefires and released key political prisoners to participate in peace talks in Norway.
But the talks fell apart following clashes between state forces and the communist-led New People’s Army.
Angered by the killing of soldiers, the President cancelled the talks.
He said the Anti-Terrorism Act was one of “the much-needed legal weapons that we need to fight terrorism.”
He said the terrorists were also those who set off explosives, citing the bomb blasts that killed more than 20 people and wounded over 100 others at the Jolo Cathedral in January last year.
The military blamed the Abu Sayyaf and other groups allied with the Islamic State for the bombings in Mindanao. - Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network
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