DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 26 Feb) — The New People’s Army (NPA) in Southern Mindanao has agreed to talk with Davao City mayor and Presidential daughter Sara Duterte who earlier offered her “hand in peace” to the rebels.
In a statement e-mailed to the media late Sunday afternoon, NPA-Southern Mindanao spokesperson Rigoberto Sanchez said they will suspend their operations for a few hours and order any NPA camp in the city and nearby areas to host the talks with the mayor at a mutually agreed time and date.
“The NPA would gladly discuss any matter that she would like to take up with the revolutionary movement, the duties and responsibilities of the people’s democratic government, the role of the NPA, the on-going all-out war of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and the GRP-NDFP (government-National Democratic Front of the Philippines) peace negotiations,” he said.
He said they are looking forward to substantial negotiation with Duterte for the welfare of the masses.
He said he was optimistic the mayor would “judiciously discern the realities of the civil war, not merely through the statistics of AFP casualties and its civilian victims but by seeing the imperative to address the roots of the armed conflict.”
He said the talks would be “auspicious,” following the encounter between military and rebel forces last February 16 in Paquibato and Calinan Districts that resulted in the death of five persons (two soldiers, two NPAs, and a civilian) with 17 soldiers injured.
“The revolutionary forces recognize Sara Duterte’s willingness to talk to the NPA as a group and not to individuals amid the growing public clamor to resume the suspended GRP-NDFP peace negotiations and achieve substantial gains in the peace process,” he said.
But Sanchez said the NPA finds “ominous” the mayor’s statement that should the NPA decline her gesture, a viable alternative would be to “leave it everything to the AFP.”
In the mayor’s statement issued on February 20, the mayor said she wants to talk with the rebels as a group to discuss her plans.
“My offer is limited by my authority over the area of my responsibility,” the mayor said, as she urged the NPA to “think about this offer seriously since this will benefit you, our fellow Dabawenyos, and our beloved city.”
But the mayor added that “in the event that you will decline my offer, I can only pray that there will be no more deaths and leave everything to AFP and to God.”
Sanchez said the mayor must know the “AFP is a corrupt, wily
and mercenary organization that makes a mockery of the peace process and continuously sabotages her father’s and the NDFP’s efforts at peace every chance it gets.”
In a statement issued at around 8 p.m. Sunday, City Information Office head Jefry Tupas said the mayor has received the NPA’s reply to her appeal and will come up with a statement in the coming days. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)