Gov’t army in Eastern Visayas OK with local peace talks
TACLOBAN CITY — The military in Eastern Visayas is in favor of localized peace talks with members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front-New People’s Army (CPP-NDF-NPA).
Captain Reynaldo Aragones, spokesperson of the 8th Infantry Division based in Catbalogan City, Samar, said it would be better to meet and talk with local armed rebels than with their national leaders since the former were more familiar with local issues and concerns.
“It’s because they will be the ones who will directly benefit (from the peace talks) and not those from above who are just enjoying their lives compared to the locals who eat nothing but copra,” Aragones said, referring to the armed rebels operating in the mountains.
Although the military in Eastern Visayas has claimed that the strength of the New People’s Army in the region has weakened over the years, the rebels continued to attack government forces and installations.
Last March 28, NPA rebels attacked the police station in Victoria town, Northern Samar. But police were able to detect their presence and were able to fire at the rebels before they could storm the police station.
Three rebels were killed during the foiled attack while three others were captured. Two policemen were wounded.
On April 15, rebels staged an ambush in Las Navas town, also in Northern Samar, and killed two soldiers while escorting an Army engineering group which was inspecting a government road project.
Two days later, rebels hurled an improvised explosive device at a group of soldiers in the hinterland village of San Miguel, also in Las Navas, but it hit a nine-year-old boy instead.
President Duterte earlier issued another call on Jose Maria Sison, Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman, to return to the country and hold a new round of peace talks in the hope of ending the 50-year insurgency problem of the Philippines.
Aragones said that based on their assessment, the rebel movement in Eastern Visayas was declining, an indication that the active rebels operating in the region, in particular, were already “tired of fighting against the government.”
“They are already weak. (Those attacks) were staged just to show that they are still strong. They don’t have the support of the majority of the people. They have been waging their armed struggle against the government for the past 50 years now and they are not winning the battle,” he said.
He said it would be better for the rebels to return to the fold of the law and start living normal lives.
“Protecting them is also part of our sworn duties to protect and serve our people. They are also our countrymen,” Aragones said.
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