AFP chief of staff warns soldiers to stay alert

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/16 December) — Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Ricardo David Jr. warned soldiers at the Eastern Mindanao Command to be vigilant and not to relax even in the midst of the suspension of military operations, following a mutual 19-day ceasefire between the government and the communist-led New People’s Army which took effect at 00:01am today.

AFP Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Ricardo David. Mindanews File Photo by Keith Bacongco“Tell the units to remain vigilant,” David, who flew in from Zamboanga City after visiting the Western Mindanao Command, today told soldiers in Camp Panacan.

“Let’s not relax even if there’s a SOMO (suspension of military operations). Di natin alam kung ang mga nakabababang (we don’t know whether the lower) organ ng (of the) NPAs ay naniniwala sa nakakataas, baka me di naniniwala, at patuloy pa rin sa opensiba (follow orders from the higher organs because there might be some of them who don’t and will continue with their offensives),” he said.

David said that in the history of the SOMO tragic things would have been prevented if soldiers had been “more careful.” He cited the ambush by the NPA in Samar which happened “less than 48 hours” before the declared truce.

“If they had only been more careful,” he said. “So, we don’t relax.”

“We hope that the government will finally come up with the peace and political settlement with the MILF so that we can have peace in our country,” said David, who talked about the new internal security peace strategy to replace the Oplan Bantay Laya program.

As David said this, however, the NPA emailed a statement to the media noting a continuing build-up of government troops in the Davao hinterlands despite the mutually-agreed ceasefire.

“Reports from the field showed that forces belonging to the 1003rd Brigade-10th Infantry Division-Eastern Mindanao Command-AFP are moving men and materials in Paquibato district,” Simon Santiago, spokesperson of the NPA’s Merardo Arce Command, said in the statement.

Santiago said that on December 10, government troops on board two six-by-six military trucks arrived in Barangay Mapula in Paquibato, Davao City. Four days after, he said, another batch of soldiers on board three six-by-six military trucks arrived in nearby Barangay Pandaitan, also in Paquibato.

On December 15, from noontime to 3 pm, three AFP attack helicopters backed the troops deployed in sitio Ranso in Barangay Pandaitan, sitio Manipis in Barangay Paquibato proper, sitio Quiambao and sitio Damilag in Barangay Mapula, Purok 6 in Barangay Salapawan, and sitio Nursery in Barangay Malabog. All are hinterland barangays of Paquibato, Santiago said.

“This 10th ID-AFP forward deployment in Paquibato smacks of duplicity and is tantamount to armed provocation,” he said.

“The NPA strongly urges the AFP to cease these offensive maneuvers in the guerilla territories as it only increases the risk of armed engagements,” he said.

Santiago described the troop movement as an “act of bad faith” on the part of government, which earlier agreed to a 19-day ceasefire with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. (Germelina Lacorte/MindaNews)