MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warned on Thursday that he might call off a unilateral ceasefire with communist rebels after a militiaman was killed in a guerrilla ambush.
Duterte said he wanted an explanation and expected rebel leaders to discipline guerrillas involved in the killing on the southern island of Mindanao, two days after the government declared a unilateral truce to aid peace talks.
“Are we in into this truce or are we not?,” Duterte asked while speaking to soldiers in an army base south of Manila.
Duterte, who won a May election, declared the truce with the communist rebels who have been fighting the government for nearly 50 years in his first state of the nation address on Monday.
The rebels killed a militiaman and wounded four in an ambush on Wednesday, the army said.
“If you do not honor and you kill a single soldier ... let’s just forget about this, let’s just fight,” Duterte said, in a message to the rebels.
Silvestre Bello, the labor minister and a peace negotiator, told Reuters he had talked to a spokesman for the National Democratic Front, the political arm of the communists, who assured him they wanted talks.
“They will look into the incident and they wish to pursue the peace talks,” Bello said.
Duterte has stressed the need to end guerrilla wars with communist and Muslim rebels that have been hampering economic development in several part of the country.
He also offered government roles to senior members of the Communist Party of the Philippines, including its exiled founder.
Reporting by Karen Lema