Palace to Joma: With or without peace talks, NPA kills soldiers – so what’s new?
“So what’s new?”
Malacañang belittled on Monday the threat of Jose Maria “Joma” Sison, exiled founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), communist rebels would intensify its attacks and that they could kill one soldier a day to force the government to revive the peace talks.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said there was nothing new in Sison’‘s warning.
“Alam mo, wala namang pagbabago sa posisyon ng NPA,” Roque said in a Palace briefing. “Nag-uusap na nga ng kapayapaan tina-target pa rin nila ang kasundaluhan. So ano ang bago doon? Walang bago doon!”
[You know, there’s nothing new in the position of the NPA. Peace talks were already ongoing, but they were still targeting soldiers. So what’s new? Nothing’s new.]
He cited previous instances when the New People’s Army (NPA) continued to attack government troops despite the ongoing peace talks.
“Nakipag-usap na nga ng kapayapaan, binigyan na nga sila ng free passes, pinadadala pa sila sa Norway – all expenses paid – patuloy pa rin ang pagpapatay nila ng sundalo. Anong mangyari sa atin diyan?” he said.
[There were already peace talks, they were given free passes, they were sent to Norway – all expenses paid – and yet they continued to kill soldiers. So what’s going to happen to us in a scenario like that?
“So go ahead, make all the threats he want,” he added.
Roque said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) was ready to fight the NPA, which Duterte had earlier classified as a terrorist group, along with the CPP.
“Ano ba ang akala niya sa Hukbong Sandataan, hindi natin sila kaya?” Roque said. “Manuod siya. Ayaw ng Presidente sana na dumanak ng dugo. Pero wag niyang tatakutin iyong gobyerno na parang kontrolado nila ang teritoryo ng Pilipinas.”
[What does he think of the Armed Forces, that it can’t handle them? Just let him watch. The President would not want to spill more blood. But Sison should not threaten the government as if he controlled Philippine territory.]
The Palace official also dismissed the warning of Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao that the NPA might retaliate and arrest government peace negotiators, following the arrest of National Democratic Front (NDF) consultants.
The threat of Casilao came days after NDF consultant Rafael “Ka Raffy” Baylosis and companion Roque Guillermo Jr. were arrested in Quezon City.
Activists denounced the arrest of the two consultants, but Roque said their arrest “was pursuant to a lawful arrest order.”
“Now as such, we should allow the legal process to proceed so that our justice system can take its due course,” Roque said. “He will have to defend himself in court as required by law, and he will have to prove that he is innocent of the criminal charges lodged against him.”
Roque said the NDF could not cannot invoke the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) since the peace talks with the communist rebels was no longer in effect.
“Jasig does not have any binding effect now that the government has decided to terminate with the peace talks,” he said.
He also questioned Casilao, whom he said appeared “to be privy to information” from the NPA.
“To me, he sounded like he was speaking on behalf of the NPA with his warning that government negotiators may also be arrested by the NPA,” Roque said. “That will be crime. That would be kidnapping – if not, a violation also of the [International Humanitarian Law] because combatants will be apprehending innocent civilians.”
The NPA does not have any basis to arrest government consultants, he said.
“The peace negotiators are not combatants. I underscore that fact,” he said. “And they’re not facing any arrest warrants and only Philippine law enforcement [has] the power to effect these arrests.”
“So, the NPA has absolutely no legal basis to arrest members of the government peace panel,” he added. “It is criminal. It is a war crime. It is the NPA that refused to follow the rule of law.”
Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte was committed “to ensuring the safety of the government’s peace panel, and our security forces are ready to perform their mandate at all times.”
“If the NPA and the NDF are really serious and sincere in pursuing peaceful means to end their decades-long conflict with government, threats of retaliation – real or not – are detrimental to the course and will serve no purpose,” Roque said. “We reiterate our call to the NPA fighters on the ground to lay down their arms and return to the fold of the law.”
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