DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 17 February) — Five combatants from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) were killed and 15 soldiers were injured in a series of clashes Thursday in Calinan and Paquibato districts in President Rodrigo Duterte’s home city of Davao.
The clashes happened just as more calls for the resumption of the peace negotiations between government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) which represents the Communist Party of the Philippines and the NPA, were aired by various sectors.
The NPA’s spokesperson, Jorge Madlos, announced on February 1 the termination of its unilateral ceasefire effective 11:59 p.m. on February 10. In response, President Duterte announced on February 3 the termination of the government’s unilateral ceasefire “effective tonight;” called off the peace talks on February 4 and on February 5 tagged NDF chief political consultant Jose Ma. Sison, his professor in Political Thought in college, as a “terrorist,” and the CPP-NPA-NDF as a “terrorist” organization.
Two soldiers were killed and 15 others were injured in a landmine allegedly exploded by the NPA in Barangay Tawantawan, Calinan district Thursday noon, the anti-terror group, Joint Task Force Haribon of the Eastern Mindanao Command said in a press release issued Friday morning.
The slain soldiers were identified as Cpl. Michael D Yadao and Pvt. Virnel M Damondon ,
Troops from the 3rd Infantry Battalion who pursued the NPA clashed with the rebel group along the boundary of barangays Lacson and Lamanan also in Calinan at about 4 p.m, killing two rebels, the Task Force said.
Earlier Friday morning, one rebel was also killed in Sitio Binaton, Barangay Malabog when an undetermined number of NPA guerrillas reportedly harassed a detachment of the Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unit Active Auxiliary (CAA) at around 5 a.m., it said.
The landmine, it added, exploded as the troops were pursuing NPA guerrillas who allegedly burned a pineapple harvester owned by Del Monte in Barangay Tawantawan, Calinan Thursday noon.
Recovered from the clash site were a cal. 45 and Garand rifle, two improvised explosive device and “landmine-making paraphernalia.”
The JTF Haribon said two of the 15 injured soldiers are in critical condition: Cpl. Jose Bautista Jr., and Pvt. Mike Barnuevao who sustained gunshot wound on the neck and are confined at the Southern Philippines Medical Center along with Pvt. Nicko Hernandez.
As of 5 p.m. Friday, the NPA or NDF or CPP has yet to issue a statement on the Calinan and Paquibato clashes.
In a statement, the Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF) appealed to President Duterte “to see that addressing the roots of the armed conflict through the peace talks is still a viable way to proceed.”
“Even if he has felt that he has walked far, we invite him to walk with us yet further still on a principled path of peace-building. To allow the war-mongers to win the day is to allow the perpetuation of the status quo,” the EBF said, adding that “much has been accomplished already in the three rounds of peace talks.”
In a statement, the Kapayapaan Campaign for a Just and Lasting Peace (Kapayapaan) on February 17 urged the President to “talk to your peace panel” as they expressed dismay that Duterte’s “unilateral decision to terminate peace talks” with the NDF “was done without the advice of the government’s own peace panel.”
Kapayapaan said government peace panel chair Silvestre Bello III admitted in a forum at the University of the Philippines in Diliman that they have “not spoken to Duterte about the talks nor about the accomplishments of the third round of talks held in Rome last month.”
“We are greatly dismayed that Pres. Duterte terminated the talks without knowing about the progress achieved by both sides in Rome. Apparently, he was unaware of the many positive steps taken to finally end the 48-year old armed conflict,” Fr. Ben Alforque, Kapayapaan convenor, said.
Alforque cited the agreement strengthening the joint monitoring mechanism for human rights and humanitarian law which was forged during the January 19-25 talks in Rome, the approval of several provisions on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), and an exchange of drafts on political and constitutional reforms.
The ceasefire committees of both panels were supposed to meet on February 22 to 27 in the Netherlands to work on a bilateral ceasefire.
“Perhaps if the President were made aware of these and other positive developments, he would have not scuttled the talks just like that. Turning back on the talks now will squander the unprecedented progress made by both parties in the last six months,” Alforque said.
Kapayapaan urged Duterte to “listen and listen good” to members of the government’s peace panel and NDF-nominated Cabinet members who are set to brief him on the status of the peace negotiations next week. (MindaNews)