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Fight with NPA resumes

Michael Punongbayan - The Philippine Star
Fight with NPA resumes

President Duterte salutes Pfc. Pat Non at the St. Ignatius de Loyola parish church in Cagayan de Oro City Sunday. Non and two other soldiers were reportedly unarmed when they were attacked by communist rebels in Malaybalay, Bukidnon on Feb. 1. Their deaths prompted Duterte to end the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front.

2 rebels arrested

MANILA, Philippines - Government troops resumed yesterday offensive operations against the communist New People’s Army (NPA) in compliance with President Duterte’s order lifting the unilateral ceasefire.

This resulted in the arrest of two rebels in Davao City, while two soldiers and five rebels were also reportedly wounded in separate encounters since Sunday.

A consultant of the National Democratic Front (NDF) and a liaison officer of the NPA in Southern Mindanao were arrested yesterday morning by elements of the Army-led Task Force Davao at a checkpoint in Barangay Sirawan, Toril, Davao City.

Task Force Davao commander Col. Erwin Neri identified the NDF consultant as Ariel Arbitrario and the NPA liaison officer as Roderick Mamuyac.

The arrests came two days after Duterte lifted the unilateral ceasefire.

Neri said an informant told the military that several persons with arrest warrants were in a vehicle that would pass through the checkpoint.

Neri said Arbitrario and Mamuyac were immediately   turned over to the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).

The two were said to be on their way to Davao del Sur when intercepted.

President Duterte has ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) to arrest members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

“The President has given the orders to arrest upon entry to Philippine soil,” PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said yesterday afternoon.

Holding a paper with the handwritten names of those to be arrested, Dela Rosa read the names of 12 NDF consultants.

They were couple Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, Vic Ladlad, Afelberto Silva, Alfonso Jazmines, Alfredo Mapano, Loida Magpatoc, Pedro Cudaste, Ruben Salota, Ernesto Lorenzo, Porferio Tuna, Renante Gamara and Tirso Alcantara.

The police will look for the NDF consultants who have returned and arrest them, Dela Rosa said. “We are armed with warrant of arrest, arestuhin namin (we will arrest them).”

Dela Rosa, however, said the arrest was not directly because of the failed peace talks.

“No. Because of the cases filed against them, the warrants are still there, these have not been quashed so we can arrest them.

“I have instructed the CIDG to lead in this operation and CIDG will coordinate with the Bureau of Immigration so when they arrive they can be arrested,” he added.

Duterte on Saturday night said he was cancelling the peace talks with the Reds unless there was a compelling reason to continue. The President also told government negotiators in Rome to come home.

Duterte also disagreed with NDF chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili, who claimed that a formal notice is necessary to terminate the peace talks.

“I’m not his (Agcaoili) client. I do not take orders from anybody,” the President said.

Meanwhile, the NDF reiterated that Duterte could not just order the arrest of NDF consultants who participated in the peace talks.

The NDF said the 17 consultants released in 2016 to join the peace talks are currently in the country and not in hiding.

The communist umbrella group said that under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), the consultants could not be arrested again.

The NDF also said the consultants are currently out on bail for six months and they have permission from the court to join the third round of peace talks with the government.

The 17 consultants are set to post bail again this month.

Agcaoili said in an earlier statement that all their consultants are protected from arrest under the JASIG, which the Philippine government peace panel reaffirmed in the latest round of talks last month in Rome, Italy.

Arbitrario, secretary of Guerrilla Front 2 of the NPA’s Southern Mindanao Regional Committee, was first arrested by the police on Feb. 16, 2016 in Tagum City.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Public Affairs Office chief, Marine Col. Edgard Arevalo confirmed this yesterday even as the military assured the people that military operations would not be indiscriminate.

“While we are determined to hit them hard like what our chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Año said,that does not mean that it would be indiscriminate,” he said.

Arevalo noted that the AFP still wants peace but in times when the people are victimized by extortion and harassed to the point of their being forced to seek help from the police and the AFP, then the military would have to protect them because that is the armed forces’ sworn duty.

Casualties

Two Army troopers were wounded yesterday morning when NPA rebels detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) in Barangay Trece Martirez in Casiguran, Sorsogon, the military said.

Col. Fernando Trinidad, Army’s 903rd Infantry Brigade commander, said soldiers under 2nd Lt. Ben Dijito were checking a rebel camp when an IED exploded and triggered a firefight.

Trinidad said the two Army men were hit by shrapnel. The wounded soldiers were not immediately identified.

“Our soldiers were moving up while the enemy was in an advantageous higher position,” said Trinidad.

The military reported that five NPA guerrillas were wounded after an encounter with members of the Army’s 29th Infantry Battalion (IB) in Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte on Sunday.

Lt. Col. Glenn Joy Aynera, commanding officer of 29th IB, said government troops are now conducting pursuit operations against the rebel band headed by Kumander Otto.

Another encounter occurred on Sunday noon in Barangay Mat-i, Surigao City but no casualty was reported.

Arevalo also denied again that the military had conducted combat operations against the NPA when the unilateral ceasefire was in effect.

He said such incidents during the ceasefire were mere law enforcement operations in support of the PNP against lawless elements.

AFP chief Año assured the rebels that the military would respect the human rights of NPA guerrillas.

And if there are allegations of abuses, he said the charges will be investigated and addressed appropriately.

The AFP also expressed optimism that despite the lifting of the unilateral ceasefire, the peace talks will continue.

“We have experiences in the past that the peace negotiation continues even when there is no ceasefire,” Año said, while noting that it would be better if a bilateral ceasefire agreement is put in place.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana also gave assurance that the peace talks would continue despite recent developments.

Both the Army and PNP are now in defensive mode as they brace for renewed NPA attacks.

Senior Supt. William Señoron, Negros police director, said the police Regional Public Safety Battalion and the Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade are now preparing for possible encounters.

Termination of peace talks

The Communist Party of the Philippines rejected Duterte’s termination of the peace negotiations.

In a statement yesterday, the CPP said it joins the Filipino people in rejecting the declaration the other night of Duterte that he will terminate peace negotiations between the government and the NDF and that he is dissolving his negotiating panel.

Duterte also ordered all negotiators to come home to the Philippines and that he was effectively dissolving the panel that negotiates peace with the NDF.

The CPP claimed that until now it has not received any formal notice of the termination of the peace talks other than the declaration of the President.

“Having not received any formal notice of termination from the government, however, we consider as standing the government-NDFP peace negotiations. We continue to look forward to scheduled talks on Feb. 22-24 and April 2-6,” the CPP statement added.

The CPP also assailed the President’s threats to order the cancellation of passports of NDF negotiators and consultants as well as their arrest and detention without bail.

If carried out, these shall be considered as gross acts of treachery and grave violations of the JASIG.

The CPP said the JASIG was reaffirmed by the Duterte regime and the NDF just a few months ago. It guarantees non-reprisal against each other’s peace personnel. With Cecille Suerte Felipe, Alexis Romero, Edith Regalado, Ben Serrano, Celso Amo, Gilbert Bayoran

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