CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/29 December) – Seemingly smarting from the media mileage the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) gained during its 42nd anniversary celebration on Sunday, the 4th Infantry Division dished out some statistics to show it had more field successes compared to the CPP’s armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).
Amid a mutual ceasefire with government that will end midnight of January 3, the National Democratic Front in Mindanao led by Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos marked the CPP’s anniversary in San Agustin, Surigao del Sur with a festive atmosphere and optimistic projections for Asia’s longest running insurgency.
But the 4th ID sounded eager to refute Madlos’ claims and said that from January to December 2010, a total of 76 NPA rebels had surrendered.
During the same period, a total of 21 rebels died in combat in Northeastern Mindanao, said Major Eugenio Julio C. Osias IV, commanding officer of the 4th Civil Military Operations (CMO) “Masaligan” Battalion.
Osias also reported that in the close to 90 encounters in Northeastern Mindanao this year, 27 rebels were wounded while 38 were captured.
The military also recovered 34 high-powered firearms and 33 low-powered firearms, 15 claymore mines, 16 anti-personnel mines, 10 anti-tank mines, 8 improvised explosive devices, 12 blasting caps; two rifle grenades; one rocket-propelled grenades, five fragmentation grenades, six gallons of super dyne explosive, and several communication equipment.
“All in all, about 78 NPA camps were overrun and destroyed,” Osias said.
“With superior skill and discipline in the field, we had been successful in reducing the overall strength of the NPA all throughout Northern Mindanao,” he added.
Major General Victor A. Felix, commander of the 4th ID based in Camp Evangelista here attributed their success against the CPP-NPA to the support of the communities and local government units “in the pursuit for genuine peace and justice.”
Saying the Army is committed to “live normal lives in peace and harmony with others,” Felix expressed sadness over the deaths of the rebels.
“These unfortunate deaths of the rebels would have not happened if only they were not duped into joining the armed struggle. We are not happy in having these violent encounters because these NPA rebels are also Filipinos,” he said.
Felix also urged the rebels “to lay down their arms and join the mainstream of society. We, in the 4th ID, are committed in helping them enjoy normal lives with their loved ones.”
He said that protracted armed conflict between the government and the Maoist rebels has led to unnecessary loss of lives on both sides.
NDF’s Madlos declared during the CPP anniversary celebration that the armed movement “has taken the path to peace”.
The stalled peace process between the NDF, political arm of the CPP, and the government is set to resume by February in Oslo, Norway.
Expected to be tackled in the peace process is the substantive agenda on socio-economic reforms.
One of the sensitive issues in the resumption of the peace process however is whether the talks should be held with a ceasefire in place. Several sectors in the government have been pushing for a truce for the duration of the talks.
The NPA on the other hand had rejected the idea of a truce while talks are ongoing, saying the discussion on the disposition of forces should only come after the other items in the substantive agenda of the peace process, namely human rights and international humanitarian law, socio-economic reforms, and political and constitutional reforms shall have been resolved.
The Hague Joint Declaration signed between the Government and the NDF on Sept. 1, 1992 puts “end of hostilities and disposition of forces” as the last item in the substantive agenda.
The Declaration also provides that “no precondition shall be made to negate the inherent character and purpose of the peace negotiations”.
So far only human rights and international humanitarian law has been tackled with the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) in March 1998.
But both sides have been accusing each other of violating the provisions of CARHRIHL. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin/MindaNews)