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Martial law to 'isolate' Duterte from masses, communist party warns

The Communist Pary of the Philippines said on Thursday that President Rodrigo Duterte would further isolate himself after he had declared military rule in Mindanao. This latest communist statement came a day after it called on its armed wing, the New People's Army, to scale up its operations on the island and the rest of the country. AP/File

MANILA, Philippines — The Communist Party of the Philippines said on Thursday that President Rodrigo Duterte’s imposition of military rule in Mindanao would further “isolate” him as the head of the government negotiating team called the communists’ call for intensified attacks evidence of their lack of sincerity to negotiate peace.

In a statement, CPP said that, by imposing martial law, which it said would “curtail civil and political rights,” in Mindanao, Duterte was “further isolating himself from the people.”

The group also criticized Duterte for showing “contempt” for the human rights abuses committed during the martial law regime of ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos after the chief executive described the period as “good.”

“By imposing martial law and curtailing the civil and political rights, GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) President Duterte is further isolating his regime from the people. In the vain hope of justifying his imposition of martial law in Mindanao and plan to impose it on the entire country, he yesterday described Marcos martial law as 'good' in all-out contempt of the Filipino people’s sufferings under the 1972-1986 military dictatorship,” CPP said in a statement.

Marcos declared martial law in 1972 premised on threats posed by the CPP-NPA and by Moro secessionists. Ironically, the martial law years saw the NPA's numbers grow as many critics of the Marcos administration were forced underground. 

CPP calls for more NPA attacks

CPP’s statement came a day after it ordered its military arm, the New People’s Army, to scale up operations across Mindanao and the entire archipelago as it claimed that the martial law on the island was meant to target the communist rebels.

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CPP also called on its armed wing to accelerate the recruitment of rebel fighters.

“[T]he New People’s Army must be ready to accelerate the recruitment of new Red fighters as Duterte’s martial law convinces more and more people to take up arms against the rotten system. The Party calls on the NPA to plan and carry out more tactical offensives across Mindanao and the entire archipelago,” the group said.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, who is also head of the government panel negotiating with the CPP-NPA through the National Democratic Front, denied that the declaration of martial law targets the NPA.

Bello said that government was “disturbed” by CPP’s call to intensify attacks, which the government said “was an insult to the candor and genuineness displayed by the President and the GRP Panel in talking peace. At worse, it betrays the absence of sincerity of the CPP in the negotiating table.”

Peace talks between the government and the communist rebels have resumed after a return to hostilities in February. Sporadic skirmishes between security forces and the NPA continue.

Bello: Martial law 'needed'

The government negotiator defended the president’s decision, saying that the circumstances and the conditions that warranted the imposition of army rule were “public knowledge.”

“There was a need to restore law and order, protect the lives of the citizens and preserve private and state properties,” Bello said.

The Labor secretary said that lest it would be seen as a sympathizer of the Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf, the CPP-NPA should correct their mistake and recall their order.

Duterte declared military rule in Mindanao on Tuesday evening after intense clashes between security forces and Maute and Abu Sayyaf fighters have turned Marawi City into a ghost town. The president, who was with his senior security officials on a four-day official visit to Russia, was forced to cut short his stay in Moscow.

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