AFP remains wary of NPA attacks despite ceasefire
MANILA — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced it would readily comply with President Duterte’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire with the communist armed wing New People’s Army (NPA), but said it would be “ready to defend itself” against attacks by the rebel group.
In a statement, the AFP spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said: “The AFP will abide by the Commander-in-Chief’s instruction, but will remain alert, vigilant and ready to defend itself and pursue attackers if confronted by armed elements of the NPA.”
“The government has shown its sincerity and we expect no less from the other party. Our people long for and deserve peace and we shall work diligently as we have been doing all these years to deliver just that,” Padilla said.
The statement’s wary tone proves timely, as just on Sunday, suspected NPA members abducted three police officers and one non-uniformed Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel in Barangay Cagtinae, Malimono, Surigao del Norte.
The regional police, engaged in an ongoing pursuit, “denounced and deeply condemned the atrocity conducted by lawless armed group,” in a statement on Monday. The Malimono town Crisis Management Committee headed by the mayor had also been activated following the abduction.
“The PNP is also calling the NPA member to lay down their arms, abandon the armed struggle and return to the comfort of their families and assist the police in the enforcement agencies in bringing peace in the region,” the Caraga police statement read.
Asked about the abduction after the Monday morning flag-raising ceremonies at the national police headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City, no less than Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa said they would do “whatever it takes” to get the abducted police officers back.
“We don’t leave our people behind. Gagawin natin lahat para mabawi sila. Whatever it takes, negotiation, or if it will take war to get them out, makipagiyera tayo (We will do everything to get them back. Whatever it takes…we’re willing to wage war),” De la Rosa said. “Di pupuwede yung we are at the mercy of the enemies of the state.” (We cannot allow ourselves to be at the mercy of the enemies of the state.)
The military, however, lauded Duterte’s ceasefire declaration as “a very bold move.” “We fully support him in his effort to bring sustainable and lasting peace to our whole country,” Padilla said.
Meanwhile, the AFP also expressed support to pronouncements made by Duterte, also during his first State of the Nation Address (Sona), to use military camps as rehabilitation centers.
“We fully support the initiatives of our Commander-in-Chief to rehabilitate drug users and provide them a second chance at life. We look forward to working closely with relevant agencies who are trained and empowered to do this so we can approach and carry out programs in the most efficient, appropriate and effective manner,” Padilla said. SFM
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