Duterte halts peace talks with communist rebels

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President Rodrigo Duterte says he may be willing to go back to the negotiating table if there is a 'compelling reason' to do so.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — President Rodrigo Duterte said he's done all that he could, but he has had enough.

The President, who identifies himself as a leftist, said Saturday night that he is terminating the peace talks with communist rebels because of their demands for the government to release all political prisoners. He also lamented how AFP soldiers were still attacked, even when the NPA was supposed to be on a ceasefire.

"I tried everything," Duterte told reporters after visiting his parents' tomb in Davao City. "As you can see, I walked the extra mile, released their leaders so they could go to Oslo to talk. Now they want 400-plus prisoners who fought the government. I'll just order the Philippine contingent (to the peace talks) to fold up their tents and come home."

The announcement came a day after the President lifted the government's ceasefire with the rebels and two days after a junior Army officer was killed by suspected members of the New People's Army.

The rebels had said they planned to lift their ceasefire with the government on Feb. 10.

Duterte said if he released the other prisoners, there would be no point in conducting the negotiations, which started optimistically at the beginning of his administration.

"Kung ire-release ko lahat sila [If I release all of them], why bother to talk?" he said. " I told the soldiers to go home to your camps, clean your guns and prepare for the long struggle. The struggle has been going on for 50 years. Ubusan ng bala [We'll fight to the last bullet] until such time it would come to a natural secession because everybody's tired of killing people."

Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief Lt. Gen. Eduardo Año said Friday they will hit communist rebels hard as they go into battle again.

Duterte also said he's not interested in arguing with the rebels or talking to Communist Party of the Philippines leader Jose Maria Sison, his former professor.

"As a matter of fact, if they issue a statement, I will not answer them," he said.

Go back to jail

Duterte also said all the communist leaders who were temporarily released by the government and allowed to go abroad to join the peace talks must voluntarily return to the Philippines.

"Those who were released by the government, they should, on their own volition, return here and go back to prison," he said. "I'm alerting all the intelligence communities to keep track of where they are now. Walang pardon. Walang amnesty. Wala lahat [No pardon. No amnesty. No nothing]."

Duterte said if the leaders don't come back, he will alert the international police and cancel their passports.

Federalism key to lasting peace

Despite this, the President said he may go back to the negotiating table if there is a "compelling reason" to do so.

"I do not know what would be that reason, but always, it would be in the interest of the Filipino people," he said. "I will not waste my time and compromise the integrity of the government."

Duterte also said he will continue to advocate for federalism to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao.

"That is the centerpiece of my campaign," he said. "I've told you before and I will say it again and again and again that there cannot be peace in Mindanao until we reconfigure. Yung mga proponents ng [The proponents of the] 1987 Constitution, they should come here on the ground to listen to the Moro people. They will not stop their struggle until this country is blown up to pieces."

Norway still helping out

Meanwhile, the Norwegian government said Wednesday that it will continue to work with the Philippine government and the communist rebels.

"We are in close dialogue with both parties," said Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Communications Adviser Guri Solberg in a statement. "We know from experience that all peace processes are going through challenging phases."

Norway has been facilitating the peace talks since the 1990s.

CNN Philippines Senior Correspondents Ina Andolong and David Santos contributed to this story.