AFP operations against NPA still on
The military will continue its operations against the New People’s Army (NPA) despite the signing of an agreement between the government and communist rebels to forge a joint interim ceasefire unless ordered to stop by President Duterte, military commanders said on Thursday.
Maj. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, said only the President as Commander in Chief can declare a suspension of military operations (Somo).
“The declaration of Somo is a prerogative of the President. In the absence of such declaration, we continue in performing our mandate of protecting communities against terroristic attacks by the NPA such as burning of equipment and extortion activities,” Madrigal said.
He noted that two civilian hostages in Davao Oriental had been released by the NPA even without a Somo.
“They can simply leave them to local officials without any fanfare,” he said.
The military will conduct “focused military operations” only when there is a need to deal with “atrocities or armed violent attacks being perpetrated by the NPA against our troops and civilians,” said Lt. Gen. Leonardo Guerrero, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Col. Edgard Arevalo, head of the AFP’s public affairs office, said the military gives “primacy to the peace process” between the government and communist rebels.
However, government troops will continue their “focused, deliberate and surgical combat, intelligence and civil-military operations” while there is still no ceasefire agreement.
“We will pursue our mandate as protector of the people and the state by defeating any armed groups of any affiliation to uphold the law, maintain peace in the communities, and protect the lives of our people,” he said.
Arevalo said the AFP was hoping that negotiators from both sides would soon finalize and approve the guidelines and ground rules that would lead to a ceasefire declaration.
Under the agreement signed by government and communist rebel negotiators in the Netherlands on Wednesday, the guidelines would cover the presence of armed groups in communities and the creation of buffer zones. They would also specify prohibited, hostile and provocative acts.
The agreement also calls for the formation of a joint ceasefire committee and a third-party monitor and other mechanisms to implement the truce, including the handling of complaints and alleged violations.
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