Rebels accused military of sabotaging peace talks
NORTH COTABATO – Communist rebels have accused the Philippine military of violating a cease-fire agreement following a recent clash that killed 9 people in Mindanao.
Rigoberto Sanchez, a spokesman for the New People’s Army, said rebel forces killed 8 army soldiers, but one insurgent was also slain in the fighting that erupted in the village of Biangan in North Cotabato’s Makilala town. Last week’s clashes coincided with the on-going peace talks between government and communist rebels.
He said soldiers from the 39th Infantry Battalion attacked rebel positions in the hinterland village and called it a “sinister combat operation.” He said rebel forces tried to evade the army soldiers, but the infantrymen pursued the NPA fighters and eventually engaged the insurgents in fighting that lasted at least 12 hours.
It was not immediately known how the cease-fire violation would affect the peace talks, but Sanchez said: “The Duterte government must know by now that it is the bullish insincerity of its armed forces to continue its counter-insurgency campaign that is the biggest impediment in the quest for just and lasting peace.”
“The war dogs of the 39th Infantry Battalion and the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines cannot wash its hands clean of this flagrant violation of their own ceasefire,” he added.
Sanchez said the army battalion also mobilized armed militias to attack the NPA in North Cotabato.
Since August last year it continued to mobilize its troops and paramilitaries in various forms of combat operations such as intelligence gathering, combat and psychological warfare in far-flung areas that resulted in harassments; extra-judicial killings of civilians Rita and Norberto Gascon on September 13 in Arakan town and Rolan Malignan on November 22 and the enforced evacuation of several families in Magpet town on December 6,” he said.
Sanchez said the cease-fire (agreement) in the province only existed because the NPA was consciously maneuvering its forces in order to avoid armed skirmish in the face of unrelenting military and police combat operations.
“The NPA consistently demonstrated its commitment the negotiations while the AFP and the PNP have continued to make a mockery of the peace process,” he said. Duterte Duterte Condemned Condemned
Communist rebel leader Jose Maria Sison has repeatedly condemned the Duterte government for reneging on its commitment to free hundreds of political prisoners languishing in jails across the country.
Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the chief political consultant for the National Democratic Front (NDF) negotiating peace with Manila, said Duterte’s refusal to free the prisoners violates the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.
“The non-release of political detainees also runs counter to the possible declaration of the bilateral interim ceasefire agreement between the NDF and the Philippine government and the acceleration of the peace negotiations,” he said.
Duterte has repeatedly said he will not free the prisoners unless the NDF agreed to sign a bilateral ceasefire with the Philippine government, although this was a pledge he made during the election campaign.
But Luis Jalandoni, former chief of the NDF peace negotiating panel, and now senior adviser, stressed that the NDF will not lay down its arms even as it is engaged in peace talks with the Duterte government.
Jalandoni also warned that “as human rights abuses are perpetrated with the continued implementation of counter-revolutionary program Oplan Bayanihan and Enhanced Oplan Bayanihan, it will be forced to withdraw its ceasefire declaration to protect the masses and defend communities.”
NDF leaders have asserted that “there can be no peace until the roots of armed struggle are addressed decisively. The revolutionary forces are now stronger more than ever to wage armed revolution, gain concrete benefits for the people, and ultimately attain justice and true peace.”
“The only way to annihilate the roots of violence and unrest is to realize the land distribution for the millions of peasants in the country, to respect the ancestral domain of indigenous people and Moro people, to abolish the wage slavery and end the exploitation of all workers, and to attain justice for all victims of human rights abuses and oppression. And the only way to pursue peace is only by waging the national democratic revolution and the people’s war,” the CPP said.
The rebels are fighting for many decades now in an effort to establish their own communist state in the country.
New People’s Army rebels march in southern Philippines.