President Rodrigo R. Duterte criticized the communist terrorist group New People’s Army (NPA) for spoiling development efforts in Samar Island in their decades of “senseless” armed struggle.

In his speech at the Philippine Army 8th Infantry Division headquarters in Catbalogan City, Samar, Duterte said the vast natural resources in Samar is a key to development, but presence of NPAs is a major setback.

“Ngayon, itong — ewan ko itong Samar. Itong mga NPA, I’m sure dadating ‘yan sa kanila. You know, it’s a beautiful island or beautiful group of islands. Marami dito ang isda (fish is abundant here) and we can always — given the industry of the Filipino ‘pag may pera (if there’s money), we can always develop this place into something that would make the Filipino happy,” Duterte said before the commanders, junior officers, enlisted personnel and civilian employees of the 8th Infantry Division at Camp General Vicente Lukban in Catbalogan City, Samar.

“Ewan ko itong mga NPA na ‘to (I don’t know with these NPA rebels). They have been fighting for 53 years sa gobyerno, estudyante pa ako (against government, I was still a student),” Duterte said.

Duterte urged the rebels to lay down their arms since they will never win a war against the government. He even urged them to “learn new skills” and contribute to the country’s food production.

“I encourage the remaining rebels to repudiate your outdated ideology, abandon your [extremist] activities and return to the folds of the law,” he said.

He added that he doesn’t understand the kind of brains NPA rebels have.

“You don’t need to be a high school graduate. Ang tingin sa inyo na mali talaga (The perception is that you are wrong). I mean choose a better fight in life. Iyang makapabuti sa anak mo, kapwa tao mo, sa gobyerno mo (What’s better for your children, for your countrymen and your government),” he said.

He said he is willing to come back to Samar and tell the communist rebels to stop their foolishness and become productive citizens.

“Just drop your weapon, stop fighting and we will talk. And I can give you right away one-third of what you are asking. One-third, one-third, one third is one,” he said. “Maski one-third ibigay ko na sa iyo (I’ll give you one third). Maski ‘yung pera na kakonti konti para sa ating bayan, paghati-hatian natin ‘yan para gumana naman ang lahat ng buhay ng Pilipino (Whatever money this country have, let’s divide it so that Filipino lives would progress). Pero (but) if you remain to fight, well, problema ninyo ‘yan (that’s your problem).”

He lauded soldiers of the Army’s 8th Infantry Division for its anti-insurgency efforts that led to the arrest and surrender of more than 1,500 members of the communist terrorists in Eastern Visayas.

He also acknowledged the efforts of the army unit in supporting the more than 450 joint anti-illegal drug operations of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Philippine National Police, which resulted in the seizure of a considerable amount of illegal drugs and the arrest of several drug personalities.

Also present in the event were key officials of Philippine National Police in the region and in Samar province.

Prior to his speech, the President led the ceremonial distribution of 2,700 Glock pistols to the division representatives.

Accompanying the President were Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana & Senator-elect Christopher Lawrence Go. (PNA)