President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Wednesday, March 7, lauded the joint efforts of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the local government units for the increasing number of surrenderees from the New People’s Army (NPA).

“At no other time are the NPAs surrendering with their firearms. It is taboo to them here and in Mindanao, everywhere, na ‘pag nag-surrender ka tapos ibigay mo ‘yung armas mo sa sundalo o sa pulis, so talagang ha-huntingin ka because that is anathema, a taboo. Talagang yayariin ka,” President Duterte said in his meeting with the local chief executives of Luzon at the Royce Hotel here.

“So mabuti na lang, marami na ang nag-surrender and… Also, I’d like to congratulate the Armed Forces and everybody, ‘yung mga mayors pati pulis, they are active in convincing people,” he said.

The President said he has reached out to NPA founding chairman Jose Maria Sison but in the end, there was a stalemate in the talks because Sison wanted a coalition government, which the government cannot give.

“So ‘yan ang sitwasyon doon. So there is an impasse. I don’t know who would blink first but definitely it would not be government,” Duterte said.

The President said that with more rebels surrendering to government, he hopes that the Armed Forces can quash the rebel group soon.

“We are trying to really go out and just embrace them as brothers and at no other time, maraming armas. If they become decimated by the number of surrenderees, maybe the Armed Forces can finish them off next year at mawala na ‘to,” Duterte said.

Duterte said rebel surrenderees are given housing and livelihood opportunities.

“We are about to complete many — sa Davao City may 1,000 ako; in Tagum about mga 700 plus. Then Surigao and in Zamboanga. Dito naman sa Bulacan, meron rin ako marami nang natapos… Then I inaugurated the other day sa Marawi at iba pa and those are for the soldiers. But at the same time, mabilis din kaming gumagawa. But some businessmen who want to donate, gusto nila individual,” Duterte said.

“Si Inday, ‘yung anak ko na Mayor ng Davao, sabi ko, ’Day, iyo ‘yung mga sa NPAs’. I hope we can have it the momentum here. Tutal anyway, ang gagastos naman niyan karamihan is government,” Duterte said.

“It’s a matter of ‘yung program of how to talk to them sincerely and if they want to surrender, meron silang bahay then we can give them money in the meantime may transition sila,” he added.

As for livelihood, Durerte said rebel returnees will be trained by TESDA, noting that the country is in need of more skilled workers.

“Mind you, there are constructions in Manila, Davao, Cebu, which have temporarily stopped because of the absence of skilled workers,” he said.

“So they would need some kind of a master carpentry, master plumber. ‘Yan ang gusto kong makiusap sa inyo. If you have that kind of program of pacification, let me know,” he added.

With regard to fighting corruption, the President said it is one of his campaign pledges and he remains committed to ending abuses and misdeeds in the bureaucracy.

Fending off corruption accusations, he stressed he has never entertained any transaction or deals and lets his Cabinet secretaries handle those transactions at their level.

“Best ways, maski sinong tanungin ninyo, any — doon sa clerk who started to type the endorsement and everything, no transaction ‘yung MRT, PAGCOR o ano that ever reaches my table. ‘Yung MRT ni Tugade o ‘yung eroplano ni Tugade, ‘yung MRT niya, wala akong pakialam diyan and all,” he said. (PND)