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Mom of soldier slain by NPA cries for peace at son’s wake

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Mom of soldier slain by NPA cries for peace at son’s wake

Grieving woman asks President Duterte, communist leaders to end ‘pointless’ bloodbath
/ 12:16 AM February 18, 2017
soldier wake

Emy Damondon (in white shirt), mother of Pvt. Virnel Damondon who was killed in a land mine blast set off by NPA, grieves over the coffin bearing the remains of her son in Camp Darapanan. —ALLAN NAWAL

DAVAO CITY—The mother of a soldier killed in a land mine blast set off by the New People’s Army (NPA) in Barangay Lamanan in Calinan district here on Thursday, joined the growing call for the resumption of talks and ceasefire between the government and communist rebels.

Emy Damondon, mother of Pvt. Virnel Damondon, one of the two soldiers killed in the blast, said the clashes should stop as families of both soldiers and rebels have suffered enough.

“There should be a truce,” she told the Inquirer at the wake of her son at Camp Panacan here on Friday. “The killings should stop already. Enough is enough,” she added.

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Pvt. Damondon, 24, of the 3rd Infantry Battalion, had been a soldier for only two months when he was killed along with Cpl. Michael Yadao, when the land mine explosion in Barangay Lamanan past 4 p.m. on Thursday hit the vehicle they were riding. Eight other soldiers were wounded in the blast.

NPA rebels continued to defend their use of land mines, saying the types of land mines they used were command-detonated and did not violate the ban on land mines.

Emy said President Duterte should now heed calls to restore a ceasefire with the rebels and continue peace talks with the communists.

Big dreams

“I wish that the President goes back to negotiating with the rebels so that peace will finally be achieved,” she said.

“It’s pointless to be killing one another,” she added.

She said her son, the eldest of three, had so many dreams for the family and had vowed to help his two sisters go to college. “He became a soldier primarily to help the family,” she said.

Her statement echoed mounting calls from Mindanao peace groups urging the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to return to the negotiating table to address the root causes of what could be the world’s oldest Maoist rebellion.

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In a joint statement, the Exodus for Justice and Peace, Sisters’ Association of Mindanao and Ateneo de Davao University’s Community Engagement and Advocacy Council said they have set a peace forum today to gather insights from people and discuss ways of persuading the government and NDFP to continue the talks.

Peace venue

The dialogue would be held at the Community Center of the Ateneo de Davao University.

The peace process stalled when NPA leaders terminated on Feb. 10 the unilateral ceasefire the Communist Party of the Philippines had declared in August.

Mr. Duterte responded by canceling the government truce, suspending the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees and ordering the government peace panel to terminate the talks.

He also asked the military and the police to arrest NDFP negotiators who have been released from jail because of the peace negotiations.

Mr. Duterte said he was not keen on talking with the communists anymore.

But peace groups said there are compelling reasons for Mr. Duterte to pursue peace with the communists.

“If there is one compelling reason to stay the course of peace, it should be peace itself,” they said.

The peace groups said abandoning the talks despite the gains would not only “put to waste the gains and goodwill that have been made since the resumption of the talks in August of 2016,” but would also “merely intensify the fighting without addressing the roots of the armed conflict.” —ALLAN NAWAL

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