CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/23 November) — Communist rebels in Northern Mindanao have threatened to call off the ceasefire with the government over alleged violations of the truce by the Army and police in the region.
Ka Allan Juanito, regional spokesperson of the NPA said soldiers and policemen would stay in 78 villages in Butuan, Gingoog and Malaybalay cities in Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon and the two Agusan provinces using anti-drug operations as their cover.
“If not Operation Tokhang, the other reasons they gave are medical and dental mission or census,” Juanito said in an emailed statement in the vernacular sent to media.
“Mopondo ang mga sundalo gikan tulo ka adlaw ngadto sa tulo ka semana ug sa ubang barangay mas dugay pa (The soldiers would stay from three days to three weeks and in other barangays they stayed longer),” he added.
Juanito cited an incident last Nov. 16 in Claveria town, Misamis Oriental where Army soldiers allegedly misled a group of farmers protesting the demolition of their houses by fruit giant Del Monte Philippines.
He cited too an incident last Oct. 21 where some 35 personnel of the PNP Special Action Force allegedly terrorized several villages near Barangay Bit-os, Butuan city.
The NPA leader said the soldiers and policemen violated the unilateral ceasefire declared by President Rodrigo Duterte last August 21 because the villages they raided were part of their controlled areas.
The Communist Party of the Philippines responded to Duterte’s move with its own declaration of a unilateral ceasefire.
“If the government forces will not stop these intrusions, there is a big possibility that a shooting war will erupt between the troops and NPA cadres,” Juanito warned.
In a statement last October 21, the CPP said the military’s perpetuation of Oplan Bayanihan “is an outright affront to, and tramples on, the spirit of the simultaneous ceasefires of the CPP and GRP. It completely disregards the order of GRP President Duterte to be friendly with the revolutionary forces and the revolutionary government.”
Oplan Bayanihan is the counterinsurgency program started under the administration of former president Benigno S. Aquino III.
The CPP statement said soldiers would go to civilian communities in the countryside in the guise of anti-drug operations and bringing services to the people.
“Fully-armed soldiers enter the communities to taunt and instill fear on the people. They carry out psywar and intelligence operations. One by one, activists and their families are summoned. Local residents are compelled to join village meetings organized by soldiers for fear of being accused as NPA sympathizers,” it said.
Last November 7, GRP peace panel chair Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the bilateral ceasefire would be signed “either by end of November or first week of December. But we are eyeing the last week of November since we need to address other concerns in the talks.”
The aforementioned ceasefire document was scheduled to be signed on or before October 26 but the parties decided to postpone, a press release from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process on the same day said.
“We have to postpone the signing. There are still several items that need to have a consensus, such as the monitoring mechanism, the parameters of hostile acts, the definition of buffer zones,” explained Bello. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)