DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/11 March) – The government and the National Democratic Front must resume peace negotiations that have been stalled since early last month after both sides terminated their unilateral ceasefire declarations amid mutal accusations of bad faith, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa said Friday.
De la Rosa, 55, told reporters during the launch of the Regional Women and Children’s Protection Desk at Camp Quintin M. Merecido that he was already frustrated over the endless fighting and he wanted to see it end before he retires from service next year.
The mandatory retirement age for soldiers and police is 56.
“Walang Pilipino na gustong pumatay ng Pilipino. Ilang years na yang peace talk, peace talk nayan, wala pa rin nangyari, sige pa rin, tuloy tuloy pa rin, but still kahit frustrated na tayo ako mag-reretire na. (No Filipino wants to kill a fellow Filipino. Peace talks have been held for years but, it seems nothing has happened. The fighting continues, but still even if we are already frustrated and I’m about to retire.) I’m still giving peace a chance,” he said.
“Kung pwede mag-usap magusap tayo para… mahirap naman ito, sige lang tayo patayan (If we can talk so that… This is difficult, we’re always fighting),” he said.
“Wag kayo gumawa ng karahasan, wag kayo manunog ng mga heavy equipment ng plantations, construction firms na hindi nagbibigay ng pera. (Do not do violence. Do not burn heavy equipment of the plantations and construction firms who do not give money),” he said.
On the intention of the NDF to release six captives being held by the NPA, Dela Rosa called it “one of the gestures of goodwill”.
“One of the acts of goodwill pero hindi lang yan ang kinakailangan natin (but that’s not the only thing we need). Commitment talaga while naga-peace talk wag kayo pumatay ng police, wag kayo pumatay ng sundalo (We need commitment. While there is peace talk, do not kill a police, do not kill a soldier),” he said.
The NDF identified the six captives as Pfc Edwin Salan, captured in Alegria, Surigao del Norte on January 29; Sgt. Solaiman Calucop and Pfc Samuel Garay, captured in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat on February 2; PO2 Jerome Natividad, captured in Talakag, Bukidnon on February 9; and two alleged paramilitary members Rene Doller and Carl Mark, both captured in Lupon, Davao Oriental on February 14.
In a statement on March 9, NDFP peace negotiating panel chair Fidel Agcaoili said the NDFP has approved their release.
“Discussions have been going on since between third party peace facilitators and the GRP Panel. The POWs should have been released as early as 2 March but arrangements on their safe and orderly release, as well as those of the third party peace facilitators, local government officials, ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) representatives and the custodial forces, have still to be worked out,” he said.
“On the Bansalan (Davao del Sur) incident, we still have to confirm if this was done by the NPA command in the area. There are peace spoilers around. And people should not forget that there is no ceasefire in place at the moment, and that AFP and PNP troops have been going into villages and violating people’s rights in their combat and intelligence operations, including murderous Tokhang operations,” Agacaoili said.
In a separate statement issued on March 10, the NPA Regional Operations Command in Southern Mindanao owned up to the ambush in Bansalan.
“The New People’s Army Regional Operations Command in Southern Mindanao commends the successful tactical offensive by a squad of Red fighters belonging to the Mt. Apo Subregional Operations Command during a 15-minute ambush, which seized four firearms and subdued a PNP unit engaged in armed operations in Brgy. Sibayan, Bansalan, Davao del Sur on March 8, 2017,” it said.
It said the NPA carried out an order “to exact revolutionary justice against Marlon Lomantas, a former AFP soldier turned active intelligence agent of the 39th IB and a known drug trader and user in Brgy. Sibayan, Bansalan.”
The slain PNP personnel were identified as PO1 Rholly Benelayo, PO1 Joey O Narvaza, PO1 Saro S Mangotara, all from Bansalan Municipal Police Staion, and PO3 Jeden Mei Rabor, a member of Scene of Crime Operatives.
Wounded in the ambush was PO3 Allen Arnado. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)