Reds hit Army for truce violation on Panay Island
ILOILO CITY — Communist rebels on Panay Island have accused government troops of violating the indefinite ceasefire declared by President Duterte, saying soldiers continue combat patrols, intelligence-gathering and “psychological warfare” operations in villages in Iloilo, Antique and Capiz provinces.
In an e-mailed statement, Julian Paisano, spokesperson of the political department of Coronacion Chiva “Waling-Waling” Command of the New People’s Army (NPA), said troops belonging to the 82nd Infantry Battalion (IB) and 61st IB maintain detachments in populated areas in violation of international humanitarian law and rules of war.
But Capt. Gizelle Lim, spokesperson of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, said activities of soldiers have been confined to socio-civic campaigns in cooperation with government agencies and nongovernment organizations.
Paisano said residents suspected of being sympathetic to rebels were being threatened by soldiers.
“These directly violate the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, the first agreement signed by both the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP),” Paisano said.
He said NPA units have intentionally avoided soldiers to prevent clashes.
Lim denied Paisano’s allegations.
She said government troops have been helping civilian agencies in conducting livelihood training, delivery of social services and assistance.
“We continue to observe the suspension of military operations (Somo) order,” she told the Inquirer.
Lim said the Somo does not direct soldiers to be confined in their headquarters but to suspend offensive operations.
Troops conducting socio-civic activities are armed to protect themselves and members of organizations helping them.
In a separate statement, NDFP peace panel member Benito Tiamzon said continuing military operations “are making the situation on the ground untenable and endangering even the fragile unilateral ceasefires currently in place.”
The government and NDFP each declared an indefinite unilateral ceasefire as part of confidence-building measures in the peace negotiations aimed at ending the 48-year-old communist insurgency.
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