DAVAO CITY (MindaNews /07 August) – “Either you stop it or we stop talking (and) fight another 45 years.”
President Rodrigo Duterte gave the National Democratic Front (NDF) an ultimatum to immediately stop using land mines against government soldiers or the peace talks scheduled on August 20 to 27 in Oslo, Norway will not push through.
“I am not pleading this time. That’s an ultimatum. I hear another explosion killing people, not only soldiers … no talks, pasensya na” (I’m sorry), Duterte announced at around 1 a.m. Sunday at the covered court of the Naval Station Felix Apolinario (NSFA) or Camp Panacan, after talking to the families of four soldiers slain on August 5 in two separate clashes with the New People’s Army (NPA) in Monkayo and Maragusan towns in Compostela Valley province.
“I would insist you include the landmine issues, or else no (peace) talks at all. Then, we fight for another 45 years,” he warned.
Duterte noted that the other party is “the very first to cry foul when something goes wrong even in the handling of prisoners.. but one of the important, and may be a very humane provision, iyang binabawal po yung landmine.”
“I cannot understand for the life of me that if it is to your advantage you invoke the Geneva Convention rules and yet time and again, I’ve been the mayor of this city, sinabi ko sa inyo, akala ko ba sumusunod kayo ng Geneva Convention? Or would you like that I will also order the Armed Forces na ‘gamitin ninyo ang landmine, pag kayo ang naka-position at umambush kayo.’ Which is which?” he asked.
He said there cannot be different rules for the NPA and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
The Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols form the core of international humanitarian law (IHL) which regulates the conduct of armed conflict, seeks to limit its effects, and protects civilians.
“If I hear another explosion, killing people – not only soldiers – killing people. No talks pasensya na (I’m sorry). Hindi naman nauubusan ng pera ang gobyerno, hindi naman talaga ninyo kaya tumbahin (The government never runs out of funds. You cannot topple it down),” he said.
Duterte, who served as mayor of Davao City for 22 years, had been instrumental in the release of police and military officers captured by the rebel group and was often requested by the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) armed wing to receive the freed soldiers or policemen.
The last captive turned over by the NPA to Duterte was Army PFC Edgardo Hilaga who was freed in an upland village in Tulunan, North Cotabato on April 27 this year.
“We’re having talks, you better decide now. Andito ako sa Davao… Decide now gagamit ba tayo ng landmine because I will order the Armed Forces to prepare explosives ordnance, para tabla. Bakit sundalo lang ng gobyerno ang magdusa nito? (to be fair. Why should government soldiers be the only ones who will suffer?)
He said he understands the NDF’s principles. “We’ve been at war since almost 45 years. That’s why, I’m pleading to everybody including the Communist Party of the Philippines to continue with these talks,” he said.
“You must decide now. If I hear another explosion…. ,” Duterte warned.
5 down, 12 injured
Shortly before 8 a.m. on Friday, August 5, a team of 20 soldiers pursuing the NPA with whom they clashed a day earlier in Barangay Rizal, Monkayo, were ambushed by an estimated 60 NPA guerrillas at around 7:50 a.m., a press release issued by Capt. Rhyan Batchar, chief of the Division Public Affairs Office of the 10th Infantry Division said.
Batchar said the NPA “attacked the outnumbered troops utilizing IED (improvised explosive devices) and high-powered firearms.”
Batchar later said a command-detonated landmine was used by the NPA.
The NPA has repeatedly defended its use of landmines saying it is using the command-detonated types not the anti-personnel mines which explode on contact and are banned under the Ottawa Treaty.
NDF peace panel chair Luis Jalandoni in a statement on May 28, 2013, said “the use of command-detonated land mine is a legitimate weapon of the NPA against the armed forces of the.. government in the revolutionary movement’s just war of national and social liberation. It deters enemy combatants from encroaching the territory of the people’s democratic government and harming the people with impunity.”
The Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines (PBCL) in a statement Sunday said they have been “trying to convince the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) to unilaterally declare that they will not use landmines.”
“The command-detonated improvised landmines used by the NPA have the same effects as the globally banned anti-personnel landmines that violate international humanitarian law (IHL).”
The NPA owned up the ambush, in a statement issued by Rigoberto Sanchez, spokesperson of the NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command.
He said the NPA “successfully ambushed a company of the 25th IB in Sitio Inuburan, Brgy. Rizal, killing 5 AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) troops, seizing two M203 grenade launchers, one M4 rifles, Harris radios, and several other military hardware.”
Three soldiers were killed — Cpl. Jimmy M. Bayta, Cpl. Gilmar C. Mapa and Pfc Rolen Roy Sarmiento — and 10 others were injured in the ambush. A young female guerrilla was also killed, her body recovered by the soldiers.
Bathchar told MindaNews the name of the female guerrilla, according to one of three NPA guerrillas captured, is Rose Em Sayson. It is not clear if that is her real name or an alias.
Hours after the Monkayo clash, another clash between soldiers and the NPA occurred in Barangay Parasanon in Maragusan town also in Compostela Valley province, at around 1 pm.
Cpl. Ruel Mangaoang (not Sgt. as earlier reported), reported to have been woundd, was airlifted but died on the way to the Camp Panacan Station Hospital here.
A soldier was also killed in the outskirts of Valencia City in yet another clash with the NPA on the same day.
On August 1, the 39th Infantry Battalion discovered a land mine weighing about eight kilograms along the riverbank in Brgy. Sinoron, Sta. Cruz in Davao del Sur allegedly by NPA members under Guerrilla Front 51.
“Stop it or we stop talking”
“I am now invoking the Geneva Conventions. It is part of the International Law not only of the Philippines but around the world. Either you stop it (using land mines) or we stop talking. Another 45 years of war,” Duterte said.
He said he might just approve the proposal of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to hire additional 20,000 personnel to improve the AFP’s strength.
Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire during his first State of the Nation Address on July 25 “to immediately stop violence on the ground, restore peace in the communities and provide enabling environment conducive to the resumption of the peace talks.”
The ceasefire was to take effect immediately. He called on the NDF to “respond accordingly.”
Two days later, a paramilitary personnel was killed and four others were injured in an ambush by the NPA in Kapalong, Davao del Norte, prompting Duterte to give the NDF 24 hours or until 5 p.m. on July 30 to reciprocate government’s unilateral ceasefire or he will lift his July 25 order.
When the NDF did not reciprocate at 5 p.m. on July 30, two hours later, Duterte ordered the “immediate lifting” of his ceasefire order and directed all security forces to be on “high alert and continue to discharge their normal functions and mandate to neutralize all threats to national security, protect the citizenry, enforce the laws and maintain peace in the land.” (Antonio L. Colina IV with a report from Carolyn O. Arguillas/ MindaNews)