HOURS AFTER HOLIDAY CEASEFIRE DECLARATIONS

NPA just can’t be trusted, AFP says after attacks

Philippine Daily Inquirer December 25,2019 - 09:43 AM

MANILA, Philippines — The New People’s Army just cannot be trusted, the military said late Monday, after communist guerrillas attacked policemen and soldiers in Iloilo and Camarines Norte provinces hours after the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) separately declared a ceasefire for the holiday season.

A soldier was killed and six others were wounded when NPA guerrillas ambushed a platoon from the Army’s 92nd Division Reconnaissance Company as the unit was withdrawing from Barangay Baay, in Labo, Camarines Norte, at 9 a.m. on Monday in compliance with the government’s order for a suspension of offensive operations.

Maj. Ricky Anthony Aguilar, public affairs officer of the 9th Infantry Division, identified the slain soldier as Cpl. Noel V. Daria.

Wounded were Sgt. Allan A. Arcos, Corporals Ricky R. Obiña, Milvin S. Vargas, Genaro M. Macalintal Jr. and Jave A. Pevida, and Pvt. Mamertino M. Gamban.

The guerrillas reportedly set off an improvised explosive device on the path of the platoon then opened fire. The troops returned fire, forcing the insurgents to withdraw.

Half an hour later, NPA guerrillas ambushed officers from the 1st Police Mobile Company at Barangay Singon, Tubungan town, Iloilo. The policemen escaped from the “killing zone,” but two of them were wounded, according to Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa, the acting chief of the Philippine National Police.

Record of violations

“I think the record will speak for itself. We have long been saying that we cannot trust the terrorist group NPA,” Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo told a press briefing on Monday afternoon, referring to the attacks launched after the truce declarations. “These incidents only go to show that this terrorist group cannot be trusted.”

The military had opposed a truce with the rebels for the Christmas and New Year holidays, but President Rodrigo Duterte approved the recommendations of the government peace panel and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the umbrella organization of the local communist movement, for a ceasefire from midnight of Dec. 23 up to midnight of Jan. 7.

Duterte also ordered the reconstitution of the government negotiating panel, giving rise to hopes for a resumption of peace talks with the communist rebels.

But citing the rebels’ insincerity, Arevalo said the NPA had always used the holiday ceasefire to regroup, recruit and restock. “[W]e learned our lesson from the past,” he said, adding the military was watching developments.

Earlier on Monday, the military said it would not recommend the cancellation of the ceasefire because of the attacks. Gen. Noel Clement, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said the military would always be faithful to truce declarations and to peace negotiations.

Arevalo warned the NPA that it would answer to the people for violations of the ceasefire. “Their accountability is to the people. Their accountability is to their leadership, who called for the unilateral ceasefire,” he said.

Police investigation

The PNP in Western Visayas said it would abide by the ceasefire despite the NPA attack in Iloilo.

But Brig. Gen. Rene Pamuspusan, the Western Visayas police director, said on Tuesday that authorities were investigating the attack and would file charges against the violators of the truce.

The rebels on Tuesday rejected acccusations of ceasefire violation. The exiled founder of the CPP, Jose Maria Sison, instead blamed the attacks on the government.

In an interview on Facebook, Sison, speaking from Utrecht, the Netherlands, said the government had failed to issue immediately the order for the suspension of offensive operations to the military and the police.

The NPA attacked because it perceived the military and police movements as hostile, Sison said.

In the absence of written orders to government forces to stop offensive operations, the CPP ceasefire order to the NPA was technically not yet effective, he said.

Sison played down the two attacks, saying these were far from each other and could not be interpreted as deliberate violations of the truce.

“We cannot prejudge any NPA unit in Iloilo and Camarines [Norte]. We have to find out first whether the claims of the [military and the police] are true,” he said.

No Sison control?

For Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former PNP chief, the attacks showed that the NPA no longer listened to Sison.

The attacks, Lacson said on Tuesday, indicated Sison’s lack of control on the NPA or lack of trustworthiness.

“It simply means that the NPA guerrillas don’t listen to Sison anymore. Either that or he cannot and should not be trusted,” the senator said.

Junior Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, also a former PNP chief, said the attacks amid a ceasefire were “nothing new” for the NPA.

“We are used to their duplicitous personality and treacherous intentions,” Dela Rosa said.

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