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Reds: Duterte a double-speaking thug
Fire safety officers stand next to mining trucks that were set ablaze by suspected New People’s Army rebels in Itogon, Benguet yesterday. ANDY ZAPATA JR.
MANILA, Philippines - New People’s Army (NPA) rebels snatched three villagers, including a policeman, and burned construction equipment in new attacks yesterday.
The group also condemned President Duterte as a “double-speaking thug” for terminating peace talks with the communists.
Government forces were pursuing the attackers, about 60 suspected NPA rebels who separately seized the three people and burned construction equipment in Talakag, Bukidnon, the military said.
The NPA burned a backhoe and two trucks at a construction company compound in Talakag apparently after failing to extort money from the firm, said Col. Eric Vinoya, Army brigade commander in Bukidnon.
The kidnapped police officer whose identity was not immediately made available was traveling on a motorcycle when taken at gunpoint by the rebels, he said.
The NPA also killed an Army trooper in an ambush while two trucks of a mining firm were torched in separate attacks in Cagayan and Benguet yesterday.
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Cagayan Valley regional police director Chief Supt. Eliseo Rasco said NPA guerrillas attacked a patrol convoy of the Army’s 17th Battalion in Sitio Lagum, Barangay Lipatan, Sto. Niño, Cagayan, killing one soldier.
The fatality was identified as Pfc. Roel Tabuada of Tuao, Cagayan.
Maj. Gen. Paul Atal, commander of the Army’s 5th Division, said the NPA rebels were led by Lolito Raza alias Ka Lanlan and Cristina Garcia alias Ka Senyang.
Five of the attackers were wounded during the firefight with the troops.
In Itogon, Benguet, the NPA’s Cadly Molintas Command set fire to two trucks of the Philex Mining Corp. in Sitio Tupac in Barangay Ampucao yesterday.
The Benguet police said the rebels disarmed mining company guard Danny Bay-an and took his handheld radio before holding at gunpoint drivers Rogelio dela Cruz and Danilo Aglugub as they set the trucks on fire.
The NPA went on the offensive after announcing the end of a self-declared ceasefire last week.
The government then dropped its ceasefire declaration with the rebels, and President Duterte scuttled the peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the NPA.
Duterte ordered the military to prepare “for the inevitable conflict” with the NPA following the termination of peace negotiations.
Skirmishes between government troops and the NPA erupted across the country starting last week after Duterte announced all-out war with the communist rebels.
“Duterte has gone berserk and upturned the entire peace process,” the CPP said in a statement yesterday.
The rebels said government troops have been overstretched fighting them and other insurgents, including Muslim militant groups in Mindanao.
No needfor martial law
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said it is confident it has enough forces to defeat the rebels and does not see any reason for President Duterte to declare martial law in the government’s all-out-war offensive against the NPA.
AFP chief Gen. Eduardo Año said the military and the police could do the job and operate against the rebel group without martial rule.
“Right now, the PNP (Philippine National Police) and the AFP can still operate within the prevailing situation with full control. So right now, I don’t see a reason why the President will declare martial law,” he said.
Año said Duterte has the discretion and the authority to declare martial law under the Constitution with checks and balances to ensure that such declaration is in accordance to the constitutional provision.
“But right now, we don’t see the reason,” he stressed.
“We will intensity our operations together with the PNP and the AFP to fight the CPP-NPA to defeat the armed group and put back in jail all those high-ranking personalities (who were freed during the peace negotiations),” Año said.
He said there is no need to deploy additional forces in NPA-infested areas because there are enough forces on the ground.
Año played down the rebels’ rhetoric, saying nobody believes the NPA fighters, currently estimated to number 3,700, could succeed in their rebellion even in 100 years.
“They squandered their chance by waging attacks on troops that led to the collapse of the peace talks,” Año said.
“You should go back, surrender or else hide for the rest of your lives,” he said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana directed the AFP to ensure that military operations against the NPA are near perfect.
“Following the lifting of the government’s unilateral ceasefire, I am defining the parameters of our campaign against the CPP-NPA,” he said.
Lorenzana said all military operations “must be conducted in a precise and calculated manner, using all available resources at our disposal.”
He also directed the AFP to make sure that “every action must be purposeful and serve as a means to a higher end, which is to defeat our enemy.”
While military operations are being carried out, Lorenzana said all military units and individuals should keep in mind the safety of the communities that might be affected.
He stressed the AFP’s “main priority is to protect the innocent civilians whom we have sworn to defend from any and all harm.”
Lorenzana issued the directive as a militant group had claimed civilian casualties in the fighting between government troops and the NPA.
The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said civilian casualties are mounting following Duterte’s declaration of all-out war against the NPA.
The KMP claimed they have documented at least five people who were killed since Feb. 1 during military offensives against the NPA in Mindoro and Sorsogon.
On the other hand, 10 self-confessed NPA rebels have surrendered under the Comprehensive Integration Program of the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
Officials said the former rebels surrendered one after the other until December last year.
Each of them were given P15,000 in financial assistance and P50,000 worth of livelihood assistance.
“All of the NPA rebels indicated that they believe in the sincerity of the government to promote peace in the country. All the surrenderees yielded their firearms,” Ilocos Sur provincial police director Senior Supt. Rey de Peralta said. – AP, Raymund Catindig, Alexis Romero, Michael Punongbayan, Raymund Catindig, Artemio Dumlao, Victor Martin, Jennifer Rendon, Ding Cervantes, Emmanuel Tupas, Jun Elias, Cecille Suerte Felipe