Military resumes anti-insurgency ops in Mindanao
DAVAO CITY – Military forces on Sunday resumed its operations against communist rebels after President Rodrigo Duterte revoked the unilateral cease-fire he declared with the New People’s Army following a deadly attack on a group of government militias in southern Philippines.
It was not immediately known whether the anti-insurgency campaign, ordered by the Eastern Mindanao Command based in Davao City, would affect the opening of the formal resumption of peace talks with the rebels in Oslo, Norway on August 20.
“Eastern Mindanao Command has issued a directive for all units to be on high alert and to resume operations against the NPAs consistent with the directive coming from the military chain-of-command.”
“The Eastern Mindanao Command assures our countrymen that it will remain committed to protecting our communities against armed threats and in pursuing peace and development,” said Major Ezra Balagtey, an army spokesman.
He also called on the rebels to abandon their armed struggle and surrender peacefully.
Duterte recalled the cease-fire order on July 29 after the rebels failed to reciprocate the truce. He also ordered security forces to be in heightened alert across the country.
In his statement, Duterte said: “Let me now announce that I am hereby ordering for the immediate lifting of the unilateral ceasefire that I ordered last July 25 against the communist rebels.
Correspondingly, I am ordering the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to also withdraw the operational guidelines they issued in pursuance to that ceasefire declaration.”
“I am ordering all security forces to be on high alert and continue to discharge their normal functions and mandate to neutralize all threats to national security, protect the citizenry, enforce the laws and maintain peace in the land.”
Philippine military chief Ricardo Visaya said all forces remain on high alert and will resume discharging their normal functions and constitutional mandated tasks. He said the NPA have missed a golden opportunity to manifest their commitment to the attainment of our citizen’s much sought peace throughout the land.
“This could have been what the Filipino nation had been waiting for – the silencing of the guns that could have hastened development especially in the countryside. As things now stand, the AFP will abide by the ensuing orders of the Commander-in-Chief President Rodrigo Duterte following this development. I am ordering all our forces to resume their normal mandated tasks and work to neutralize all threats to national security, protect the citizenry, enforce the laws and maintain peace in the land,” he said.
The New People’s Army blamed the militias for the attack, saying, rebels were just acting on self-defense when they killed a member of a civilian defense force in Kapalong town in Davao del Norte province.
Duterte’s order came hours just before rebels could declare their own truce to reciprocate the government’s cease-fire, according to Jose Maria Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
He also branded Duterte as a “bully” after accusing the president of forcing his own will to the rebel group into declaring a cease-fire. Sison, who is now in exile in The Netherlands, said Duterte has no power over the CPP or NPA, and not even its political wing, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
Duterte earlier threatened to scrap the cease-fire a day after the rebel attack that also wounded 4 militias. The cease-fire prevented troops from pursuing or launching an assault on the NPA, which has been fighting for decades now for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country.
“Well sinabi niya iyon, nagbanta siya, itinuloy niya pero dapat huwag niyang isipin na utusan niya ang Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army at National Democratic Front of the Philippines. Sa katotohanan, itong 8 p.m. sa Pilipinas maglalabas ng cease-fire order, pero inunahan na ni Duterte yun pag-suspend, pag-withdraw ng kanyang cease-fire order.”
“Masyado naman volatile yan presidente, yan bagong halal at bale tinatadyakan niya ang kanyang mga negotiators, ngayon siya na ang naging direct negotiator na. Wala akong magagawa kung nag-withdraw siya at yun mga nasa Pilipinas, ang pamunuan ng rebolusyunaryo sa Pilipinas ay mag-pasya na hindi na ilalabas yun cease-fire order nila eh di ganoon lang. Nagpakita si Duterte ng pagsasalitang butangero, gusto niya bakbakan agad kung hindi masunod yun utos niya, akala niya nakakuha na siya ng utusan,” Sison said in a television interview with ANC in the Philippines.
Military out to sabotage peace talks
Rigoberto Sanchez, a rebel spokesman, the clash with militias in Kapalong town only highlighted the unrelenting military operations. “Worse still, the fabricated lies they spin to their Commander-in-Chief and the media to smokescreen their palpable violation demonstrate their outright disdain for the peace process,” he said in a statement sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.
“While the NPA is ready, willing and able to reciprocate the unilateral ceasefire in accordance to the parameters, guidelines and rules to be set by the national leadership of the NPA, CPP, and NDFP, it cannot be harangued to reciprocate a unilateral ceasefire order that is overtly mocked by the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ hierarchy and its ground troops and paramilitary forces,” Sanchez said.
He said the NPA and its militia units are ready to defend themselves against military troops who are actively present in almost all villages in Southern Mindanao.
He said government soldiers continue to implement its so-called “civil-military operations,” but were actually implementing combat operations, surveillance, reconnaissance, intelligence, and psychological warfare in civilian communities. “These are troops who use communities as garrisons, conduct counter-revolutionary operations, harass and threaten civilians and ensure that their protected illegal activities such as drug trade and logging and mining pay-offs continue unhindered,” Sanchez said.
Duterte announced the cease-fire during his state of the nation address on July 25. He said the cease-fire with the rebels is to “immediately stop violence on the ground, restore peace in the communities, and provide enabling environment conducive to the resumption of the peace talks.”
He also urged the rebels to end the decades of ambuscades and skirmishes and describing them to be “getting bloodier by the day.”
“Let me make this appeal to you, if we cannot accept, love one another, then in God’s name, let us not hate each other too much,” Duterte said as he called on the rebels to reciprocate accordingly and declare a truce with the government.
Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza said the resumption of the talks is expected to begin on August 20 with Norway brokering the negotiations.
Duterte earlier ordered the Department of Justice and Department of Foreign Affairs to do everything within its power and authority to temporarily release from prison some communist personalities who will travel and participate in the Oslo talks. (Mindanao Examiner)
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