THE continuation of stalled peace talks in the Philippines is in doubt after justice officials asked a court to formally classify the Filipino Communist Party and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, as terrorist groups.

In a petition before a Manila regional court, the department of justice cited deadly attacks and violence committed by the insurgents, including bloody internal purges of suspected military spies, in seeking the proscription of the groups behind one of Asia’s longest-raging communist insurgencies.

Senior assistant state prosecutor, Peter Ong, said the guerrillas were insincere in their talks with the government and only wanted to grab power.

“Their main purpose is to mobilise all their forces in preparation for the ‘people’s war’ aimed at overthrowing the duly constituted authorities,” according to the department of justice petition, adding that the rebels wanted to impose “a totalitarian regime”.

If approved by the court, the proscription could serve as a legal weapon and serve as a basis for the government to secure court clearances to put rebel leaders and fighters under surveillance and freeze their bank accounts and assets.

Companies paying the so-called “revolutionary taxes” to the rebels could be questioned even though the military said such extortion demands have been done by coercion.

President Rodrigo Duterte resumed peace talks with the guerrillas after he rose to power in 2016.

He granted concessions by appointing three left-wing activists to his cabinet, but the cordial relations rapidly deteriorated when he protested continuing rebel assaults on troops and policemen.

Last year, he cancelled Norwegian-brokered negotiations with the guerrillas and signed an order declaring the rebel groups as terrorist organisations in a prelude to his government’s formal move on Wednesday.

The volatile Philippine president has displayed both patience and anger towards the guerrillas, but his most recent threats have been ruthless.

Human rights groups condemned him last week for saying that troops should shoot female communist rebels in the genitals to render them “useless”.

Duterte has offered bounties to encourage government forces to kill the insurgents and on Monday suggested they could decapitate the rebels.

“No need to bring me the body. Bring me the head, put it in a styrofoam, show it to me,” he said.

But in the same speech, he displayed a willingness to resume peace talks, explaining that Norwegian officials flew to the Philippines to explore the possibility of a continuation of the negotiations.

Duterte said: “I have to consult my military people. Why? They’re the ones being killed not me.

“I said: ‘I will talk to the military. If you would agree, I might.’”

The communist rebel organisations are the second to be targeted by the Philippine government for proscription under a seldom-used 2007 anti-terrorism law.

In 2015, a court approved a similar petition against the brutal Abu Sayyaf Islamic extremist group.

The group has also been blacklisted as in a similar fashion by the United States for kidnappings, beheadings and bombings.

The communist rebellion has raged for nearly half a century and left about 40,000 combatants and civilians dead.

The conflict has also severely stunted economic development - especially in the countryside, where approximately 3700 Maoist insurgents are still fighting.