President Rodrigo Duterte (Screengrab from Radio Television Malacañang)

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday expressed optimism that the next administration will be “much better” in addressing the problems that continue to confront the country.

He also hopes that his campaign against illegal drugs and communist insurgency would be continued by his successor.

Nevertheless, he ensured that the fight against drug offenders and communist rebels would be relentless until he steps down from office on June 30.

“I hope and I pray that the next administration will be better than mine on all aspects. Dinadasal ko iyan para sa kababayan, para sa inyo (I am praying that for my fellow countrymen),” Duterte said during his visit to Tropical Storm Agaton’s victims staying at the Pontevedra Elementary School evacuation center in Pontevedra, Capiz.

Despite his strained relationship with the communist movement due to the rebels’ killing spree while peace talks were ongoing, Duterte is hopeful the next president would also make an effort to “reconnect” with the communist movement.

Hindi kayo maghinto, mag-away talaga tayo (We will fight each other if you do not stop). But we were friends. We were friends. Were na kasi tapos na (because it’s all in the past). But I hope that whoever comes in next after me, they would try to reconnect and I pray that it (peace talks) would succeed,” Duterte said.

Duterte also renewed his call to communist insurgents to surrender and reintegrate into mainstream society, reassuring them that they would get assistance from the government.

“I hope that we would find peace with the communists. Ayokong makipag-away sa inyo (I do not want to fight you),” he said. “You know, you can fight 53 years in the making. You want another 53 years? And you think you can win a barangay (village) or a city? Not in a million years. Mabuti pa bumaba na lang kayo (It’s better for you to just surrender).”

The peace negotiations between the national government and the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) political wing, National Democratic Front (NDF), have been intermittent since 1986.

Duterte held a series of peace talks with the NDF but decided to terminate the negotiations following the relentless attacks of the CPPs armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), against government troops and civilians.

He formally ended the peace dialogue with the NDF through Proclamation 360 inked on Nov. 23, 2017, followed by the Dec. 5, 2017 signing of Proclamation 273 which declared the CPP-NPA as a terror group.

The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist group by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

The Anti-Terrorism Council also formally designated the NDF as a terrorist organization on June 23, 2021, citing it as “an integral and inseparable part” of the CPP-NPA that was created in April 1973.

ASSISTANCE. President Rodrigo Duterte (rightmost) distributes relief goods to families affected by Tropical Depression Agaton at Pontevedra Elementary School evacuation center in Pontevedra, Capiz on Saturday (April 16, 2022). Joined by Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista and Sen. Bong Go (2nd and 3rd from left), the President also conducted an aerial inspection of the affected areas. (Photo courtesy of DSWD Western Visayas Facebook)

Stop or get killed

Likewise, Duterte repeated his warning to drug personalities that they would get killed if they proceed with their illegal drug activities.

He reiterated that it pains him to see a family becoming “dysfunctional” just because one of its members gets involved in narcotics.

Ang droga, hintuin na ninyo (Stop your involvement in illegal drug trade). Just like the communists, you drop the drugs or otherwise, I will kill you. Mag-prangkahan tayo (I’m just bring frank),” Duterte said.

A total of PHP76.01 billion worth of illegal drugs have been seized nationwide from July 2016 to February 2022, according to the Real Numbers data of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

Around 14,648 high-value targets and 331,694 individuals involved in illegal drugs have been arrested as of February 2022. (PNA)