Stop attacks if you want peace talks to resume, Palace to Reds

By Azer Parrocha

December 16, 2019, 4:18 pm

MANILA -- Malacañang urged communist rebels to stop staging attacks if they are sincere in resuming peace talks with the government.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this remark after members of the New People’s Army (NPA) staged an attack in Borongan City, Eastern Samar that killed three people and wounded several others on December 13.

Reports showed a police officer and two civilians were killed while 15 others, including three minors, were wounded in the attack.

The attack came just six days after President Rodrigo Duterte admitted that he is considering communist rebels as his “friends.”

“Iyong mga NPAs kung gusto talaga nilang makipag-usap eh dapat tigilan na nila iyong ginagawa nila (Of course we don’t want that. If the NPAs really want to talk, they should refrain from staging attacks),” Panelo said in a Palace briefing on Monday.

“When you do that, your sincerity is in question with respect to peace talks,” he added.

Panelo, however, said it is too early to tell whether the recent NPA attack would affect the proposed resumption of peace talks.

“Let us see, how it will affect the proposed peace talks,” Panelo said.

On Dec. 7, the President announced that Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, former state chief peace negotiator, would hold a dialogue with communist founder Jose Ma. Sison in The Netherlands for the possible revival of peace talks between the national government and the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) political arm, the National Democratic Front (NDF).

The peace talks were formally terminated through the issuance of Proclamation 360 on Nov. 23, 2017, due to continuous attacks made by NPA rebels against government troops and civilians.

On Dec. 5, 2017, the President signed Proclamation 375, branding the CPP and its armed wing, the NPA, as terror groups because of their supposed actions “against the Filipino people, against humanity, and the law of nations.”

Apart from the Philippines, the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand have listed the CPP-NPA as a terror organization

No ceasefire

Panelo deferred to the decision of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año not to recommend the declaration of a unilateral ceasefire with the communist rebels this holiday season.

“The AFP and the… well, Secretary Año, I think both of them are against it. And usually, the President defers to whatever recommendation those people on the ground give him,” the Palace official said.

Earlier, AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said the AFP would not recommend a ceasefire because based on historical records, communist rebels take advantage of this to “recruit, refurbish, regroup and reserve.”

Instead of a ceasefire, the AFP was pushing for continuous operations against terror groups.

Año, for his part, said instead of a holiday ceasefire, communist rebels should heed the government’s call for them to surrender and return to the fold of the law.

He said the government would provide the ex-rebels with financial assistance and livelihood opportunities as mandated by the law. (PNA)