Rebels say army presence in Northern Mindanao endangers truce
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY— Communist rebels on Tuesday threatened to end their unilateral ceasefire with the Duterte administration if the military continues to deploy troops to the rural areas, particularly in northern Mindanao.
The unabated fielding of soldiers, as well as policemen, is clearly a counterinsurgency move and defeats the purpose of the cessation of hostilities which the rebels announced in deference to the resumption of peace negotiations with the government, said Ka Allan Juanito, spokesperson of the New People’s Army for north central Mindanao.
In a statement, Juanito noted the military presence in 78 barangays in 22 towns in Agusan del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon provinces, as well as the cities of Butuan, Gingoog, Malaybalay and Valencia.
The soldiers, he said, were carrying out surveillance missions in rural communities in the guise of delivering medical and dental services, and conducting census tasks. They were also questioning civilians, he added.
Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez, spokesperson of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, acknowledged that soldiers were stationed in some communities but their presence was requested by local government officials and covered by memorandums of agreement or understanding with them. The division covers Caraga and northern Mindanao regions.
Martinez said the memorandums indicated the specific roles of the troops to help implement infrastructure projects and address the socioeconomic needs of the residents. The military assistance, in terms of manpower, resources and technical expertise, would benefit the local governments as it would mean savings in funds, which could be used for other purposes, he said.
“So far, we have not received any report of violations,” Martinez said. —JIGGER JERUSALEM
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