State forces are ready to face heightened threats from the New People’s Army (NPA) after the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) released an order on Wednesday for the armed rebels to step up their offensive tactics across the country as retaliation for the extension of martial law in Mindanao which Congress approved last Wednesday, security officials said yesterday.
The communist movement may have also resented the government’s decision not to complement its unilateral ceasefire which security officials labeled as farcical.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the military and the police are prepared to fight the NPA fire with fire.
“This is not new. With or without an order from the CPP, the NPA had been hitting us. Our troops are always ready to face them,” Lorenzana told reporters.
For his part, newly installed Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal dismissed CPP founding chairman Jose Maria “Joma” Sison’s threat, stressing the exiled CPP leader has no more control over communist combatants.
“They don’t have any control over their fighters. Nonetheless, our troops are always on alert,” Madrigal said. “We are taking pro-active measure to address that.”
A CPP statement issued Wednesday said, “All NPA units must exert all possible efforts to punish the worst fascist units and officers of the AFP who have committed grave crimes against the people.”
High police alert
Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Oscar Albayalde said police units are already on alert in areas where there is heavy NPA presence.
“PNP maneuver forces have been put on high alert mode for any possible tactical engagement with CPP/NPA terrorist elements that have been ordered to escalate attacks on government and prized civilian targets,” Albayalde said.
He added police mobile strike forces earlier deployed in 10 provinces in Eastern Visayas, Negros Island and the Bicol region have linked up with their AFP counterparts in an active defense posture to strengthen community defenses against the CPP-NPA.
He said the latest order of Sison exposed anew the culture of lies, deception and violence of the aging underground movement.
“The CPP-NPA has found a convenient excuse in the congressional approval of the martial law extension in Mindanao as reason to stage further hostilities against government and civilian targets, even as it earlier declared a farce five-day yuletide ceasefire to trick government into reciprocating the CPP/NPA sham gesture of goodwill,” he explained.
“We urge our people to maintain vigilance and not be intimidated by this vain attempt by the CPP/NPA to salvage its waning reputation and regain lost support of the masses that they continue to terrorize and oppress,” he said.
AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said, in turn, the CPP order proved the military was correct in its assessment that a ceasefire with the communists during the holiday season will work against the government.
“We knew that the unilateral ceasefire announced by the CPP-NPA was a trap and it is expected to be used as an issue against the AFP,” Arevalo said. “We have learned from their lies and propaganda.”
He said security forces are not downplaying the threats made by communist rebels.
“We are not ignoring the threats coming from them. We would like to ask our troops to prepare for more attacks from the rebels,” he stressed.
“The alert level was raised not because of that threat but due to the possible assistance that the PNP may need from the AFP,” Arevalo said.
The military spokesman claimed the only motive of the communists is to bring hostilities across the country.
“They are just making excuses to pursue their aims, which are to launch attacks and create mayhem,” Arevalo said. “In the past, the NPA attacks soldiers on a humanitarian mission even if a ceasefire is in effect. They also extort money from businesses and investors and burn farming and public works equipment. These are the reasons why the President scrapped the ceasefire. So, what’s new?”
Unilateral truce blasted
He also chided the rebels for having the temerity to declare a unilateral ceasefire during parts the holidays, a truce which they have conveniently forgotten following this latest CPP pronouncement.
“And they still have this unilateral ceasefire which they declared for the Christmas season,” Arevalo said.
He assured the public they are not taking the rebel threats lightly and have ordered troops to take the necessary precautions.
“We are on a high alert level not because of that threat. It’s because we will help the PNP in case they ask assistance from the AFP,” he explained.