Brace for the resumption of the war between government troops and communist rebels.
Yesterday, President Duterte announced that he has ordered the lifting of the government’s unilateral ceasefire with the communist rebel group following a “breakdown” in peace talks arising from its “unreasonable” demands.
“Kagabi (Last night), I decided, I called (Armed Forces chief) Gen. (Eduardo) Año and said ni-lift ko yung ceasefire tonight. Wala ng ceasefire,” the President said, referring to the indefinite truce he restored back last August.
“I tried my best, parang sa kanta, but my best was not good enough. Para sa tingin ko there will be no peace in this land vis-à-vis with the communist party. Pagpatuloy natin yung giyera,” he added during the launch of a solar-powered irrigation system in North Cotabato.
With the lifting of the government’s unilateral ceasefire, President Duterte told government forces to “be ready to fight,” admitting that will be no peace with the communists for the next generation.
Duterte made the announcement in a visit to North Cotabato yesterday, a few days after the communist rebel group claimed it was withdrawing its unilateral ceasefire with the government effective February 10. But while the unilateral ceasefire of the local communist group is still in effect, suspected New People’s Army (NPA) started attacking government security forces.
BE READY TO FIGHT
Duterte bewailed that six soldiers and one military officer were killed in recent rebel clashes despite an existing truce with the rebels.
“Because I have lost so many soldiers in just 48 hours, I think to continue with the ceasefire does not or will not produce anything. Therefore, I’m asking the soldiers, go back to your camps, clean your rifles, and be ready to fight,” he said. “I am sorry but that is how it is,” he said.
The President lamented the peace talks have been derailed after rebel group made “unreasonable demands” such as the release of hundreds of political prisoners.
Duterte explained that he has refused to grant the rebels’ demand to free 400 political prisoners because it was already tantamount to granting amnesty. He said such demand was “too huge that was impossible to meet.”
He said he has “walked an extra mile” when he freed several rebel leaders who joined the peace negotiations as a confidence building measure.
“I would have wanted very much because it’s about 50 years in the making. Gusto ninyo another 50 years? Wala ng katapusan? Kung walang katapusan, sige,” he said.
“I guess that peace with the communists cannot be realized during our generation maybe years from now. So ayaw ko magpatayan pero kung ganun lang pati mga sundalo ko pinapatay pati sa ibang lugar, resume tayo anytime,” he added.
Duterte informed the rebel group that he does not decide alone about the peace process, adding he conducts consultations with various stakeholders including the military and police.
“I’m sad to report to you there will be no peace with the communists for the next generation. Paubusan lang talaga ito. Wala akong magawa. I tried but since that I’m losing end of the bargain,” he said.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) strongly condemned the NPA for their recent atrocities, killing six soldiers who came from peace and development projects that benefited communities.
AFP Public Affairs Office (PAO) chief Marine Col. Edgard Arevalo said these acts are not only violations of their own ceasefire declaration, that is still in effect, but also an utter disregard to International Humanitarian Law when they used excessive force on the bodies of three soldiers they had earlier abducted.
“The NPA perpetrated acts that are completely unnecessary to the already fallen soldiers,” Arevalo said.
“It also shows their clear disregard of the newly forged guidelines for the full implementation of the Joint Monitoring Committee under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law signed by the CPP-NDF leadership in Rome last month,” he added.
Arevalo said that even before the CPP-NPA announced the withdrawal of their ceasefire, they already conducted a series of atrocities against government forces beginning last Sunday.
18 NPA ATTACKS
Based from reports from the ground, the NPAs have conducted 18 attacks since January 15 of this year.
Arevalo said the most heinous of which was the killing of three soldiers of the 8th Infantry Battalion in Bukidnon.
“These soldiers were in civilian uniform and just came from non-combat activity when they were mercilessly fired upon by the NPA and they admitted having fired the first shot. The victims received up to 27 gunshot wounds each on one body according to the report of PNP-SOCO and our own medical investigation,” Arevalo said.
“They have also abducted three soldiers in separate incidents in Surigao del Norte and Sultan Kudarat,” he added.
Arevalo said the AFP is demanding the immediate release of Pfc. Erwin Salan abducted on January 29, and two other soldiers abducted on February 2.
“The AFP regrets that the NPA has withdrawn its ceasefire declaration. The ceasefire has been an effective manifestation of the CPP-NPA-NDF’s commitment to the peace talks and has so far given peace to the communities where they continue to operate,” Arevalo said before President Duterte announced the cancellation of the government’s own unilateral ceasefire with the Left.
Nonetheless, their withdrawal showed their insincerity and bared their insatiable taste for violence, he said.
“Rest assured that the Armed Forces, as the only legitimate military organization mandated to protect the people and the communities, will take proactive defensive measures to thwart attacks from all lawless armed groups,” Arevalo said.
“We shall also continue to perform peace-building and development efforts where the people in conflict areas request us to. We will continue to capacitate local government in order to fast-track delivery of basic goods and services to their constituents,” Arevalo said.
“We will continue to safeguard communities from criminal acts of extortion, burning of vehicles, particularly construction implements that are used for the development of these areas, farm and livelihood implements and other forms of criminal and atrocious acts – whoever is the perpetrator,” he added.