DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The chief negotiator of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines said as of Tuesday, the interim unilateral ceasefire of the New People’s Army is still in place.
NDFP peace panel chair Fidel Agcaoili explained that the latest skirmishes involving the New People’s Army points to the “aggressiveness” of government troops following the military raid in Makilala town, North Cotabato last Jan. 23.
“As of today, the unilateral ceasefire declaration of the CPP and NPA is still in place. What the alleged armed skirmishes indicate is that the GRP military and police have become more aggressive after their success in the Makilala, North Cotabato incident when they attacked an NPA encampment,” Agcaoili said in an email.
He added that the NPA has taken an active defense posture “to defend and protect the communities and its forces.”
This as the NPA National Operations Command spokesman Ka Oris is scheduled to issue a statement at 10:00 am Wednesday, the Facebook page of Philippine Revolution Web Central announced.
Agcaoili’s statement came after Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza expressed wariness over the recent attacks involving alleged members of the NPA.
“We are distressed and extremely disturbed by the recent series of attacks and harassments by alleged New People’s Army (NPA) elements in various areas nationwide,” Dureza said.
Dureza said “the unilateral ceasefire was precisely set in place to provide an enabling environment for the ongoing peace talks and also to secure the support of the stakeholders and the bigger public in understanding and supporting these unprecedented, although small but significant steps, for sustainable peace in the land.”
“We do not wish to unnecessarily squander those gains that even saw President Duterte exercising strong political will to move the peace process forward,” he said.
Dureza said that some in the NDFP leadership “are not in full control of their own forces on the ground or they are themselves undermining these efforts for sustainable peace, or pressuring government for certain concessions.”
He said President Rodrigo Duterte is willing to make effort to attain peace but the NDFP should also reciprocate it.
However, Agcaoili warned Dureza not to sow “disunity among the ranks of the revolutionary movement.”
“We strongly advise Sec. Dureza not to raise the bogey of disunity among the ranks of the revolutionary movement. This would only lead to massive human rights violations as what happened in 2005 and 2006 when then AFP chief Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., used this excuse to justify the extrajudicial killings and disappearance of activists, innocent civilians and revolutionaries,” he said.
Agcaoili added that the government peace panel and the NDFP have made “considerable advances” during the first three rounds of formal talks with the government.
“Sec. Dureza should not forget that we have had three rounds of formal talks (with another round scheduled in April 2017) and that we have made considerable advances towards forging the comprehensive agreement on social and economic reforms in order to meet the deadline set this year,” he said.
He also said the unilateral ceasefire declared by the Communist Party of the Philippines and the NPA is in force since August last year. This, he said, proves the support of the revolutionary movement to the peace negotiations.
“He should remember that the unilateral ceasefire declaration was in response to the GRP’s promise of substantial releases of the sick, elderly, women and long term detainees, as well as the withdrawal of the military from communities, the fulfillment of which would have laid the firm basis for a stable ceasefire and encourage further the acceleration of the peace negotiations,” he said.
Spirit of peace process
For its part, the Eastern Mindanao Command said Tuesday that the NPA attacks against the government troops in Mindanao violated the “spirit of the peace process” especially in the delivery of basic services to the far flung communities.
In a statement, EMC Commander Lt. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero said members of the Peace and Development Teams of the Philippine Army were attacked by the NPA guerilla last Jan. 30, in Mat-i, Surigao City.
Three more attacks took place in San Isidro, Mahayahay, and Hinambangan in Kitcharao, Agusan Del Norte against the PDTs deployed in these areas on the same day, he said.
“These atrocities ran contrary to the spirit of the peace process especially in the delivery of basic services to support far flung communities,” Guererro said.
“These PDTs are stationed in depressed communities to facilitate the delivery of basic government services in collaboration with different government agencies.”
Guererro also took exception to the killing of Albert Sablada last month in Brgy. Calinan in Davao City, whom the communist rebels alleged to peddling illegal drugs and an organizer of the paramilitary group, Alamara; and Neptali Alfredo Pondoc, whom the NPA also alleged to be involved illegal drug trade in Tabaon, Malabog, Paquibato District.
The NPA claimed responsibility for the killings.
“Pondoc has a warrant of arrest from the GRP reactionary police in Calinan. Red fighters also confiscated various drug paraphernalia such as weighing scales and other equipment found in his farm,” said Rigoberto Sanchez, the spokesperson of the New People’s Army Regional Operations Command-Southern Mindanao
The NPA’s 1st Pulang Bagani Battalion “meted out the death penalty” to Pondoc on Jan. 23 in his farm-turned-drug den in Taboan, Malabog, Paquibato district.
For the NPA, Pondoc was known to be “a notorious operator of drug trade, and an organizer of Alamara bandits who was also responsible for the killing and massacre of peasants.”
“While ceasing offensive military operations, the NPA will continue to enforce policies and laws of the people’s democratic government, perform appropriate functions of governance, and mobilize the people and resources in territories under its authority,” Sanchez said.
The military slammed the killing.
“This is not a dispensation of justice as they claim but purely murder. The NPAs have no right to impose justice as this is within the purview of the judiciary,” Joint Task Force Haribon Commander Brigadier General Gilbert I. Gapay said in a statement.
“It is ironic that the group grossly disregarded International Humanitarian Law which they always claim to adhere” Gapay added.
Meanwhile, the 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army has called the Communist Party of the Philippines to show its sincerity to the ongoing peace talks with the government.
“We call on the CPP to show their sincerity on the peace talks with the government by directing the NPA to immediately desist from committing further atrocities,” the 10th ID said in a statement.
It also reaffirmed their “strong support to the ongoing peace talks between the government and the CPP-NPA-NDF.”
“We will continue to abide by the government’s ceasefire declaration and observe the suspension of offensive military operations against the NPA,” the army division said.
In a statement Jan. 27, NPA’s Rigoberto Sanchez doubts if the government’s peace panel and Pres. Duterte, have control of the AFP after clash between the NPA last Jan 26.
“The revolutionary forces are wondering whether the GPH panel, and indeed Pres. Duterte, have either the control of their armed forces to effectively implement its proposed bilateral ceasefire or the political resolve to investigate and punish the insidious saboteurs to the peace process,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez said that “whatever the case, it would appear that a bilateral ceasefire agreement would be pointless in the face of relentless and outright attack operations by AFP and PNP troops against units of the NPA.” (With a report from Mart D. Sambalud/davaotoday.com)