By Joey Natividad
SORSOGON CITY, 16July2013 (BicolToday.com) – Sorsogon Governor Raul Lee’s call for local peace talks has drawn reactions from the Netherlands-based National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the NPA rebel group in this province.
Rebels in this province on Friday cautioned Governor Lee and provincial administrator Robert Lee Rodrigueza in their call for a localized peace talk, and instead suggested that the public officials should air their call to President Noynoy Aquino to resume the stalled peace talks at the national level.
Governor Lee on Thursday, July 10, aired his call for cessation of hostilities between the AFP and NPA after the province was rocked by series of fighting that resulted in the killing of 9 rebels, while the Army suffered 8 killed and several injured in various incidents in the towns of Juban, Irosin, Casuguran, and Gubat.
In Juban, NDF Bicol region spokesman Greg Bañares was slain with 7 other rebels during an Army attack July 4 on their encampment. Two days later, July 6, rebels mounted simultaneous attacks on Army and police units in Irosin, Gubat, and Casiguran. In the Irosin encounter, the rebels claimed inflicting 8 government soldiers killed and wounding several others, an alleged incident which Army headquarters did not confirm nor deny. The rebels suffered one dead in the incident.
In a statement sent by internet, the rebel group in this province, Celso Minguez Command (CMC) said they (Governor Lee and officials) should not let themselves be used by military officials to initiate local level of peace talks since this is a “new approach” in the national government’s counter-insurgency scheme under “Oplan Bayanihan.”
The Sorsogon rebels’ move not to entertain any level of local peace talks was boosted by an announcement on Thursday July 11 by Luis Jalandoni, chair of the NDFP Negotiating Panel.
Jalandoni, in a statement, said Sorsogon Governor Lee’s proposal for “localized peace talks” is a part of the intelligence, psychological warfare, and combat scheme under Oplan Bayanihan. It is in line with the so-called “new approach” of President Aquino, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) under Secretary Deles.
According to Jalandoni, who is based in the Netherlands, the “new approach” is a divide-and-rule ploy to divide the ranks of the revolutionary movement in the local areas.
Jalandoni’s statement said: ” ‘Localized peace talks’ is an old and futile attempt by the reactionary forces to split the revolutionary movement. It is bound to fail because the revolutionary leadership has repeatedly made it clear that only the Negotiating Panel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) is mandated to engage in peace negotiations with the Manila Government. All units of the revolutionary movement follow strictly this policy.”
“In the face of the Aquino regime’s escalation of gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, as exposed in the recent killing of revolutionaries hors d’ combat in Bicol, the New People’s Army (NPA), the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the NDFP continue to grow vigorously in strength all over the country,” the statement continued.
In another statement, the CPP announced on Friday that its armed fighters with high- powered firearms will reach the 10,000 mark nationwide within a few years, and that its guerrilla fronts will reach 180 with ideal manpower of 1 company of red fighters, augmented by thousands of militia members and barangay defense units.
Meanwhile, the AFP in the Bicol Region welcomed any move to initiate local peace talks in insurgency-infested areas, believing that such initiatives would be effective in helping crush the decades-old insurgency in the country.
GMA News reported that AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala welcomed the (Sorsogon) governor’s calls for a negotiation.
Still, the army was left with no choice but to respond to the rebels’ tactical offensives following the collapse of the peace talks, Zagala said.
“We’re open to [local peace talks]. If someone would broker a negotiation at the local level, why not? But the rebels have to stop their tactical offensives first,” he said in a phone interview with GMA News.
AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan said they have been coordinating with local governments through the municipal, city and provincial peace and order councils. [BicolToday.com]