President Rodrigo Duterte has declared that peace talks between the government and armed rebels won’t succeed unless members of the New People’s Army (NPA) cease their attack on state forces and civilians.
In a televised speech on Monday, Duterte lamented the continuing attacks of the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
“No peace talks can ever succeed under me or any other president if you do not stop attacking government forces and even civilian leaders,” he said.
His pronouncement came days after communist rebels attacked members of the 85th Infantry Battalion in Quezon province.
The uniformed personnel were on a food aid mission when they were pounced upon by five NPA rebels in Barangay Batabat Sur in Buenavista town around 11:40 a.m. on Saturday.
Duterte lambasted the communist insurgents for being “insensitive to the plight of the people” as he noted that the soldiers were distributing food aid amid the pandemic.
The Commander-in-Chief vowed justice for the family of government militiaman Romar Gono, who was killed during the ambush.
“They (NPA rebels) only have the condemnation of the people, especially from me. That’s why we will never really understand each other,” he said.
“I’d like the soldiers to know and the families of the fallen heroes that the nation is very grateful to you and we would also know to reciprocate their bravery,” Duterte added.
The President was cordial with the CPP and other leftist organizations during the start of his term in 2016. His administration even sought peace negotiations with them, but their relationship had gone sour a year later following mutual accusations of ceasefire violations.
In November 2017, the President terminated peace negotiations with the CPP through Proclamation 360.
Duterte floated the possibility of resuming peace negotiations in 2019, on the condition that CPP founder Jose Maria Sison, who has been in self-exile in The Netherlands for three decades now would return to Manila for a one-on-one talk.
However, Sison insisted that peace discussions should be done in a neutral venue.
Defense officials have since initiated “localized” peace engagements to convince armed rebels to lay down their arms and return to the fold of the law.
On 20 April, the Anti-Terrorism Council has formally tagged Sison, his wife Julieta, National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultants Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Tiamzon, Rafael Baylosis, Vicente Ladlad, and 13 other alleged members of CPP’s central committee as “terrorists”.
The council claimed that it had found probable cause warranting the designation of CPP leaders as such for planning, preparing, facilitating, conspiring, and inciting the commission of terrorism, as well as recruitment to and membership in a terrorist organization, based on “verified and validated information”.
The assets of listed individuals would be subjected to the authority of the Anti-Money Laundering Council, which can freeze their accounts without delay, the council added.
Meanwhile, three NPA combatants were killed and a cache of their firearms was seized by government forces in Masbate City early Tuesday, police reported.
The three have yet to be identified but are believed to be followers of Arnold Rosero alias “Star,” the Bicol regional police said.
Members of the city police, Provincial Mobile Force Company, and intelligence operatives of the police and Army, encountered about 30 rebels in Barangay Anas around 5:30 a.m., it said.
Government forces were serving arrest warrants for murder, frustrated murder, and attempted murder against Rosero and his followers when the rebels opened fire.
The firefight lasted about 15 minutes.
Security forces suspect this same group was behind the murder of Far Eastern University football player Kieth Absalon and his uncle Nolven. Absalon’s cousin and Nolven’s son was wounded in the same attack.