DAVAO CITY—The government peace body reciprocated the move of the National Democratic Front (NDF) directing its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), to halt all armed offensives against military and police formations in Mindanao, saying the Leftist group wanted to give full concentration to all forces fighting the terror groups in Mindanao.
In a posting on the government web site, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, government chief negotiator and Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III, said he welcomed the NDF’s support to the Philippine government’s fight against the Maute, Abu Sayyaf, Ansar al-Khalifah Philippines (AKP) groups and other terrorist organizations wreaking havoc in Marawi City and other parts of the country.
“We also appreciate the NDF’s commitment in their declaration to refrain from undertaking offensive operations in Mindanao to enable the Armed Forces of the Philippines [AFP] and the Philippine National Police [PNP] to focus their attention on the war against terror groups,” he said.
These “voluntary gestures and expressions from the NDF in solidarity with the government against acts of terrorism augur well for the desired continuation of the stalled fifth round of peace talks as they provide, if sustained, the needed enabling environment favorable to moving the peace negotiations forward.”
“The Philippine government hereby correspondingly reciprocates with the same declaration of not undertaking offensive operations against the NPA to pave the way for the eventual signing of a mutually agreed bilateral cease-fire agreement and agreements on social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and end of hostilities and disposition of forces toward a just and lasting peace,” he said.
Both parties, with the NDF’s earlier statement on June 17, also expressed their commitment to continue “to adhere to mutually acceptable principles enunciated in The Hague Joint Declaration, which was reaffirmed by both parties.”
“Likewise, the Philippine government hereby unequivocally recommits its adherence to all previously signed agreements, including specifically, but not limited to, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees [Jasig]. The Philippine government commits to continue to maintain this needed-enabling environment in step with the NDF’s own commitment to do the same,” he said.
Both parties also expressed their appreciation to the Royal Norwegian Government’s “steadfast and indefatigable support and assistance to the entire process and for trusting that efforts are being exerted toward a final peace agreement”.
Its recommendation to the Communist Party of the Philippines to order the NPA to stop further offensives was contained in a statement it posted on June 17 in its Internet web site, as it clarified its position against terrorism and to mount attacks against the terror groups.
Aside from the Maute Group in the central Mindanao province of Lanao del Sur and the Abu Sayyaf Group on the southwestern Mindanao island of Sulu and Basilan, the NDF has also identified another group, the AKP as the third terror organization to watch out for.
“For all forces to be able to concentrate against Maute, Abu Sayyaf and AKP groups, the NDF has recommended to the CPP [Communist Party of the Philippines] to order all other NPA units in Mindanao to refrain from carrying out offensive operations against the AFP and the PNP,” the NDF said in its posting. It was signed by Fidel Agcaoili, the NDF chief negotiator.
Meanwhile, Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Jesus G. Dureza, said the armed skirmishes happening outside Mindanao is not covered by such commitments, citing the incidents of NPA attacks in Maasin and Iloilo.
He said these and other attacks elsewhere “must be dealt with accordingly and decisively by the AFP and the PNP with the cooperation of civilian agencies and the affected communities”.
“Having said this, it is disheartening to note such attacks provide a negative impact in our mutual commitment with the NDF to provide that enabling environment conducive to the continuation of peace negotiations with them,” Dureza said.
He said the “impact is not just on the peace negotiations; it illustrates the tragedy of the insurgency. Hopefully, the attack is just part of the birthpains of the agreement to stop offensive military actions, even if it covers only Mindanao as of now. It is an argument for a nation-wide cease-fire.”
Skirmishes did not immediately stop, at least in Davao Oriental.
The 10th Infantry Division said soldiers from the 104th Division Recon Company and one platoon from 67th Infantry Battalion in Bagangga, Davao Oriental engaged members of NPA’s Guerrilla Front 25 at Sitio 35, Barangay Taytayan, Cateel, at 1:30 a.m. on June 17.
The gunbattle lasted 45 minutes and resulted to three guerrillas killed. Soldiers collected two M16 rifles, one M14, one AK47 and one M203 grenade launcher.
A high-ranking guerrilla, alleged to be the Front 27 secretary, was killed in a separate encounter on the same day in Barangay Araibo, Pantukan, Compostela Valley Province.