QUEZON CITY, Philippines – A former partylist lawmaker accused the Armed Forces of the Philippines of using the interim ceasefires by both the government and the New People’s Army to advance its objective of eradicating the New People’s Army under the previous administration’s counter insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan.
Satur Ocampo, former Bayan Muna representative, and now an independent cooperator for the peace talks made the comments during a peace forum dubbed ‘Lakbayan Para sa Kalayaan’ (Caravan for Freedom) held at the multipurpose gymnasium of the Department of Agrarian Reform here, where over 1,000 indigenous and Moro people attended.
Ocampo said that the communist rebels received reports from the communities that some army soldiers were deceiving the townsfolk.
“In Sallapadan, Abra where the 24th IB operates, the officers there were telling the people that the ceasefire is no longer in place, that’s why their operations will resume. Another officer said, we are doing this because the NPA will not attack us anymore because they are in ceasefire mode,” Ocampo said.
“We see here that they brag about seemingly coercing the NPA’s to declare a truce. They are deceiving the people and using the ceasefire to advance the Oplan Bayanihan,” he said.
Ocampo also criticized the vague operating guidelines of the government’s ceasefire, particularly the persistence of the peace and development program, a component of the Oplan Bayanihan.
“They have this treacherous guidelines that allow for loopholes or exceptions in their ceasefire: the persistence of the Peace and Development Program, which is part of the counter insurgency platform Oplan Bayanihan. This also includes their legal offensives, where they charge rebels they arrest with common crimes. Because of these guidelines, the military operations in the areas of the NPA continue,” Ocampo said.
“Now in order to show that they are true to their word, the NPA retreats whenever they see army soldiers entering their communities for Peace and Development programs, or even those what they call as their barangay immersions,” Ocampo added.
Ocampo also called on the national minorities in the audience that live in communities where the AFP operates to report any ceasefire violations that they may encounter. (davaotoday.com)