Madlos pessimistic about peace talks
DAVAO CITY—A top communist leader in Mindanao on Saturday has expressed pessimism over calls by various sectors for a fresh round of talks with the government in a bid to end one of Asia’s longest insurgencies, accusing the latter of insincerity by violating even its self-imposed ceasefire with the rebels.
Jorge Madlos, alias Ka (Comrade) Oris, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) spokesperson in Mindanao, said the military continues conducting offensives under the cover of “peace and development operations” even as the government and rebels had declared separately a 12-day lull in fighting that started Dec. 23 in deference to the Christmas and New Year’s Eve festivities throughout the predominantly Christian nation.
“I’m not optimistic with the proposal,” Madlos said, referring to appeals for an extended ceasefire with government troops than could well reach up to next year’s elections.
The rebel spokesperson said the military has been violating its own ceasefire by launching attacks and operations against rebel-held areas in Surigao del Sur province in Mindanao, forcing the rebels’ armed wing, New People’s Army (NPA), on the defensive.
The military has also accused the rebels of violating their own ceasefire by staging attacks against government troops in Surigao, Bukidnon and Davao on Tuesday, just hours before the temporary truce was to take effect.
“It’s worrisome that even in this very day of the supposed NDF-GPH (Government of the Philippines) ceasefire, there are reports of attacks by the military. The NPA is left with no other option but to defend itself,” Madlos told the Inquirer by mobile phone.
Madlos also slammed the military for using law enforcement operations against the Magahat-Bagani Force, a Manobo militia tagged in an attack of a lumad (indigenous people) community in Surigao del Sur over three months ago as a pretext in deploying and moving troops deep into the forests where the NPA operates, thereby risking possible clashes with the rebels, “when in fact, Magahat members are just hiding in Army barracks.”
“The military should keep good of its word,” Madlos said.
The rebel spokesperson said the government should also show it is for peace by ensuring the military would not violate even a short-lived ceasefire.
“It’s a mockery of peace,” Madlos said.
Madlos said a military atrocity was unfolding in Surigao even as the rebels were celebrating the 47th year of the founding of its political umbrella, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
He said these attacks and other similar operations by the government’s Oplan Bayanihan failed to cripple the revolution, “even as the military poured 60 battalions or 60 percent of the entire troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”
“Excluding troops from police, CAFGU (Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit) and its paramilitary allies, the AFP has launched its most vicious and brutal terrorist tactics to coerce the people into abandoning their armed and unarmed resistance,” Madlos said in a statement.
He said communist guerrilla bases in Mindanao have grown in the last five years, despite relentless government offensives.
“The armed struggle in Mindanao has continued to move forward, with 46 guerrilla fronts now in five Mindanao regions, from 40 when the US-Aquino regime came to power in 2010. These guerrilla fronts encompass 2,500 villages, up from 1,850 in 2010,” he said.
Madlos said the NPA has conducted 500 “tactical offensives” in Mindanao this year, killing at least a battalion-size (roughly 300 men) of soldiers, police and other government troops.
For the military, this year’s CPP anniversary was “a highlight of the NPA’s almost half a century of criminalities, human rights violations and other lawless activities.”
“In order for the CPP-NPA-NDF to project their existence, sowing threat is paramount for them to pursue their armed struggle. However, in a civilized society they already lost their ‘ideology’ because they shifted to banditry,” said Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez, spokesperson of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division based in Cagayan de Oro City which has jurisdiction over government troops in Surigao provinces.
In Lucena City, even with the prevailing self-imposed ceasefire by the NPA, the military and police in Quezon province remained on full alert against possible attacks by the rebels as they celebrated the 47th founding anniversary of the CPP on Saturday.
“The NPA are noted for not following their own declared Somo (suspension of military offensive) that’s why we are on active defense mode,” Brig. Gen. Erick Parayno, commander of the Army’s 201st Infantry Brigade, said via phone on Saturday.
Parayno said all AFP units in the province would remain on active defense mode. “While we are not on offensive, we have to maintain a defensive posture,” he said.
Municipal police stations, particularly those in remote areas, were also placed on full alert against any attack by communist rebels, said Senior Supt. Ronaldo Ylagan, chief of the Philippine National Police in Quezon. Frinston Lim, Inquirer Mindanao; with a report from Delfin T. Mallari Jr., Inquirer Southern Luzon
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