Palace: No order to scrap peace talks with Reds after Iloilo attack
First published: 3:45 p.m., June 20, 2017
There is no order yet from President Rodrigo Duterte to withdraw from the peace negotiations with communists rebels after New People’s Army members attacked a police station in Iloilo City, Malacañang said on Tuesday.
“As of this moment, there is no instruction from the President to discontinue the government’s peace negotiations,” presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a Palace briefing.
But Abella said the government would want a “firmer response” from communist leaders.
He reiterated the government’s call to officials of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to order their armed allies to show sincerity as they tried to talk peace.
“So we have asked the NDF to call on their servant – on their armed comrades on the ground to, you know, to respond in kind and show genuine sincerity on the confidence – building measure initiated by both the government and their side,” he said. “So basically, we want a firmer response.”
On Sunday morning, around 40 rebels attacked a police station in Maasin town in Iloilo and took 12 firearms, including eight high-powered rifles.
The incident happened a day after the NDFP ordered its armed members to refrain from launching attacks against government troops in Mindanao.
The government, who reciprocated the call on Sunday, described the raid as an “opportunistic” act.
“However, although the attack was not in Mindanao, the act was clearly, like we said, opportunistic,” Abella said.
In Iloilo, a village watchman was wounded after government troops clashed with NPA rebels in Leon town on Tuesday, two days after the Maasin attack.
Romeo Cabalong, 53, was hit in the left shoulder during a 30-minute firefight in Leon, about 28 kilometers southwest of Iloilo City.
Classes were suspended in the neighboring town of Alimodian as a precautionary measure to ensure the safety
It was unclear if the suspected rebels were the same people who raided the Maasin police station and took 15 firearms on Sunday.
Police have implemented a 7-hour curfew, from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., in Maasin town following Sunday’s raid.
The Western Visayas regional police earlier relieved the 23-member Maasin police. The policemen would be investigated for possible administrative lapses after the rebels carried out the 15-minute raid without firing a shot.
Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog has placed the city, the regional capital of Western Visayas, under full alert following the raid. Maasin is some 30 km northwest of Iloilo City.
Mabilog directed officials of the city’s 180 barangays to intensify intelligence gathering measures to thwart threats from armed groups.
Prospero de Vera, an adviser for the government panel negotiating with NDFP, said people should not lose hope in the peace talks with the rebels.
“There’s always an advantage to continuing the peace talks, because we should never lose hope a peace agreement could be signed,” De Vera told reporters in Malacañang.
But he also said this should be done in an environment conducive for the talks.
This was why the President had directed the peace negotiators to withdraw from the fifth round of talks in the Netherlands, as the situation had not been conducive for discussions, he said.
At that time, the Communist Party of the Philippines had directed the NPA to step up attacks on government forces after Mr. Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao.
But government troops and communist rebels have decided to refrain from offensive operations in Mindanao while the military battles Islamic State-inspired terror groups that attacked Marawi City.
The scheduled peace talks between the government and the NDF on May 27 to June 2 were suspended following the continued attacks of rebels against state forces. JE/rga/atm
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