MARAWI CITY, Philippines — Top government officials involved in dealing with the communists have different takes on the offer of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in uniting with the government to fight terrorism.
The NDFP on Wednesday issued a statement stating that they have already directed the New People’s Army units and the Moro Revolutionary Liberation Organizations who are close to Marawi to redeploy forces “for the purpose of mopping up, holding and blocking operations.”
The unity to combat terrorism was also expressed by the NDFP to the government peace panel during the stalled fifth round of talks in the Netherlands.
Read related story: NDFP orders Moro group, NPA to defend vs Maute, Abu Sayyaf
For government peace panel Chairperson Silvestre Bello III, who is negotiating in behalf of the Philippine government with the communist NDFP, the intent of the NDFP to unite with the government against terrorism is a welcome development.
“The Negotiating Panel of the Philippine government welcomes the latest statement issued by our counterpart from the NDF reiterating their commitment to join the fight against the Maute group, the Abu Sayyaf and other terrorist groups in the Philippines,” Bello said in a previous statement.
He reiterated the stand of the government panel during his visit to Marawi City on Thursday morning.
He said the intent expressed by the NDFP “manifested their support for government.”
Asked whether the proposal of the NDFP to have NPA’s join the fight against the Maute is doable, Bello said: “Why not?”
“That would be a good development to revive the talks,” Bello said.
However, Defense Chief Delfin Lorenzana said he is not open to the idea.
Lorenzana arrived with other government and military officials at the 103rd Infantry Brigade Camp here on Thursday afternoon supposedly to join President Rodrigo Duterte to visit military troops.
In an interview with reporters, Lorenzana stressed that the government only has one army. He also said the military brands the NPA as “terrorist”.
“Hindi kami open diyan, in fact we brand them as terrorist eh. Tsaka kung pupunta sila rito na me armas sila, we will ask them to surrender kasi di naman sila pwedeng makialam dito (We are not open to that, in fact we brand them as terrorists. And if they come here with arms, we will ask them to surrender because they cannot meddle in this fight),” Lorenzana said.
He also explained that the military is trying to convince the NPA fighters who would like to surrender to instead join government troops as soldiers.
President Rodrigo Duterte in his recent speech before the government troops of the 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade in Camp Leono in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat on Wednesday, June 7 called on NPA members to enlist as government soldiers.
“Kayong mga sundalo sa New People’s Army, kung gusto ninyong sumali sa gobyerno ko, I will take you in as soldiers of the country. And I will — i-e-enlist ko kayo as soldiers anytime. Bumaba lang kayo at mag-train,” he said.
Lorenzana said before the NPAs could join them in the fight against terrorism they should first enlist as government troops.
“Until such time that they are integrated in the armed forces hindi sila pwedeng makialam dito…They have to enlist… The President said we are open, we accept them. We’re all Filipinos anyway, right?” he said.
“There is only one armed forces and one police force dito sa bansa. Ngayon pupunta sila dito armado sila, ibig sabihin we are recognizing them as another armed force, eh hindi pwede yun. Dapat isa lang ang mag-ano dito…(There is only one armed forces and one police force here in the country. Now if they come here armed, it means we are recognizing them as another armed force, that cannot happen, there can only be one armed forces),” Lorenzana said. (davaotoday.com)Agcaoili, Bello, DND, duterte, gph-ndfp peace talks, Lorenzana, Maute, MPA, MRLO, NDF, philippines, Terrorism