NPA arrest could have jeopardized long standing agreement with rebels – Duterte

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/11 Jan) – Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said the arrest of the New People’s Army (NPA) fighter on New Year’s Day could have jeopardized a long standing agreement with Communist rebels to keep the killings out of Davao as long as the city can guarantee their safety.

“It has destroyed the fine line of trust and confidence that the civilian government has tried to develop for years,” Duterte said during the SP edition of his television program “Ato ni Bay” aired live over Skycable.

Duterte also refuted Supt. Querubin Manalang, spokesperson of the police regional office, who said they based the arrest on paragraph 5 of the Philippine National Police’s national headquarters’ directive which provided that the suspension of police operations does not cover law enforcement operations.

“The arrest order was addressed to the NPA and not to a common criminal,” Duterte said. “Had there been a war going on and they (NPAs) decide to attack the police station, that would have been the time for the police to act,” he added.

He said that under the truce, the police was ordered not to take “offensive and punitive actions.”

Duterte said a long standing agreement between the city and the NPA rebels not to launch their attacks in the city as long as the city guarantees their safety has been in effect for years and has spared Davao city from the bloody NPA attacks happening in other regions. “You’re saying that the NPA Sparrow Units have long been gone and dismantled? What happened in Tagum a few days ago?” Duterte said, as he thanked the Armed Forces of the Philippines for respecting this policy.

He said a high-ranking NPA commander, about as old as Ka Oris, was once captured by the Millitary Intelligence Group (MIG) inside a National Bookstore branch but when he learned about it, he went to the MIG and took back their prisoner. “I said, ‘Akin ito, huwag kayong mag-aresto para walang gulo’,” (He is mine. Don’t you conduct arrests to keep the peace.) Duterte said.

“Instead of goodwill, you generate ill will,” Duterte said, referring to the New Year’s Day arrest of an NPA fighter undergoing treatment in the city.

“It happened under a truce, we take the word to be what it meant,” he said.

“If the NPA will raise the issue, it was just a simple arrest but it can derail the peace talks,” Duterte said.

He also said he will no longer negotiate the release of captured policemen with the NPAs because of what happened. Duterte had negotiated for the release of a Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) integree captured by the NPAs last year while undergoing treatment. “What do you want a sick soldier for? You want him dead in your hands?” Duterte told the NPAs who agreed to release the prisoner a few days later.

“I used to be the one who go up the mountains and make the necessary arrangement for the release. They destroyed this fragile connection,” he lamented.

Police regional chief Pedro U. Tango had explained to reporters he had nothing to do with the arrest carried out by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and the PNP 4th Special Action Battalion, which are both beyond his jurisdiction. Tango also said he is willing to talk to the mayor. (Germelina Lacorte / MindaNews)