No truce breach, says AFP chief
FORT DEL PILAR, BAGUIO CITY—The military did not violate the ceasefire imposed unilaterally in August by President Duterte, contrary to claims of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), according to retiring Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Gen. Ricardo Visaya.
Visaya said government soldiers have been undertaking civic operations in outskirt communities, a noncombative task of the military.
Luis Jalandoni, senior adviser to the NDFP peace panel, said the communist rebels have compiled evidence of supposed military breaches of the ceasefire.
During a Nov. 25 peace forum at the Baguio City Hall, Jalandoni said the violations involved troop movements into territories where the presence of the New People’s Army had been detected as well as in schools and villages occupied by indigenous peoples.
He said their complaint would be submitted formally as the government and the communist rebels try to hammer out a joint ceasefire declaration before the year ends.
But on Saturday here, Visaya said that “so far the ceasefire is being done with no violations recorded.”
“The visits made by the soldiers in the different communities are not military operations. We are undertaking civil-military operations—nontraditional operations [in remote villages],” said Visaya, who was honored with a testimonial parade by Philippine Military Academy (PMA) cadets here.
“We have to ensure their security,” he said. “Communities in the very outskirts of the country are inaccessible to peace officers and when there are crimes, village leaders and mayors tend to call for military assistance,” he said.
Visaya was appointed AFP chief by Mr. Duterte in July, barely five months before his mandatory retirement on Dec. 8 when he turns 56. He is a member of the PMA Matikas Class of 1983.
He did not give a speech at the Borromeo field here, preferring to speak privately with the cadets at the mess hall.
But Visaya told reporters here that his successor would inherit Mr. Duterte’s marching orders to crack down on the Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups.
“Right now, we have occupied Butid [town in Lanao del Sur from the Maute group] and 61 rebels were killed,” Visaya said. “We have significantly reduced the strength of the Abu Sayyaf, but kailangang ituloy ito (our efforts should be sustained).”
He said he would not know who would succeed him but noted that “all 11 three-star generals are candidates to become AFP chief of staff.” —VINCENT CABREZA
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.