But, rights group says Army will ‘hit hard’ on civilians

President Rodrigo Duterte greets Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana prior to the start of the 12th Cabinet Meeting at the State Dining Room in Malacañan on February 7, 2017. Also in the photo is Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II. (Simeon Celi/Presidential Photo)

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Tuesday that the Army is now preparing for the “inevitable armed conflict” with the communist guerillas.

“Soldiers (have started) preparing for the inevitable armed conflict with NPA,” he said, adding that the Army will launch an all out war against members of the New People’s Army.

But Lorenzana said they will only target the “armed component.”​

“All out war has become an overused word​,” he said, saying that the word usually include the killing of those who support the NPAs.

“We will not go into that. We will target only the armed component,” he told  reporters in Malacañang.

He said the those who have arms “ can go and intimidate people.”


Lorenzana also likened the NPA to Abu Sayyaf group.

“What’s their difference from the Abu Sayyaf? The Abu Sayyaf kidnap people and they get money. The NPA will threaten those businessmen and also get money. There’s no difference at all. We will hunt them down and stop them from doing what they’re doing,” he said.

Duterte on Saturday said the government has terminated the peace process with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

The next day he tagged the Communist Party of the Philippines, the NPA and NDFP as terrorist organizations.

Lorenzana said the government has “sufficient troops” on the ground and pegged the NPA’s to be around “5,000.”

Lorenzana also denied reports that the army is sabotaging the peace process and said the Army backs President Rodrigo Duterte in pursuing the peace negotiations.

Not the NPAs

However, human rights activists fear that the Army will be hitting hard on civilians.

“It will not be the New People’s Army (NPA) that will be hit hard as Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año said in the aftermath of the lifting of the government’s ceasefire.It would rather be the lumads, farmers, activists and civilians that will be the primary casualty and targets of the AFP’s new state of operations under Oplan Kapayapaan,” said Rev. Jurie Jaime of the Exodus for Justice and Peace.

Jaime cited Año’s track record, including his implication to the disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos.

“Año was also implicated in the infamous Paquibato Massacre in Davao City during his term as commander in the 10th Infantry Division.

Indeed, under his watch as AFP Chief of Staff, the AFP ran roughshod with the government ceasefire as it continually operated on lumad and civilian communities,” Jaime said.

The group also said even while there was a standing ceasefire declared by both the NDFP and the Army, killings of activists continued.

Jaime cited the killing of Nico Delamente in Surigao del Sur Jan. 20, Renato Anglao in Quezon town Bukidnon province on Feb. 3, Emilito Rotimas in Maco, Compostela Valley province in Feb. 6 and Glenn Ramos of Bayan Muna partylist coordinator in Maa, Davao City.

“Already, these are disturbing signs that the AFP will litter the path of peace taken by the administration and of the NDFP with blood.  No way can there be peace when lumads, farmers, human rights defenders are under fire,” he said.

Chance for peace

Bayan Muna Rep.Carlos Isagani Zarate, vice chair of the House Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity also condemned the Army’s call for an “all out war” saying there is still a chance for peace.

“However slim these (chances) may have been at this point, is condemnable, more especially that the GRP-NDFP peace process is not yet officially terminated in accordance with signed and binding agreements,” Zarate said.

“In fact it is not yet officially terminated in accordance with signed and binding agreements. So why declare an all out war when there is a chance for the continuation of the talks?” Zarate added.

Zarate urged the president to reconsider his decision and allow the negotiating panels to meet on February 22 to 27 and on April 2 to 6, which are the schedule of the next meetings set after the successful third round of formal talks held in Rome, Italy last month.(davaotoday.com)


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