DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/30 Dec) – It’s still very quiet in Southern Mindanao and other areas under the area of responsibility of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division as both the government and forces of the New People’s Army (NPA) faithfully followed the 19-day ceasefire for the Christmas holiday.
“We have a zero incident since the start of the December 16 ceasefire although they counted the case of Danya Reyes, the [University of the Philippines] student reported by Karapatan to have been abducted, a violation of the Christmas truce,” said Lt. Col. Medel Aguilar, 10ID spokesperson.
He said that except for this, both the government soldiers and the NPA rebels have stopped armed operations so far, in the observance of the Christmas and New Year holidays.
The Pulang Bagani Command, however, had complained the increased presence of military troops only three days after the voluntarily declared truce.
The ceasefire was declared to pave the way for the resumption of peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front early next year.
Aguilar, however, said that soldiers will continue their “peace and development” operations even as the government peace panel will start the informal talks with their NDF counterparts in January, in preparation for the formal peace talks expected to start in February.
Aguilar also said the military did not abduct nor detain Reyes, the 19-year-old UP Diliman student who allegedly admitted before soldiers in Tarragona town of Davao Oriental that she was an NPA member.
He said soldiers will not only concentrate their counterinsurgency campaign in the communities but will also increase their presence in the leading universities in the region.
“I know they might call this again the militarization of the school campuses but we have already come up with an agreement with the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) for our campus tours to campaign against the NPAs. We just want to increase the awareness of students what the insurgency is all about,” he said.
“The DepEd has already given the go signal for the activity and has even issued directives to the school superintendents in the provinces to allow soldiers to give counterinsurgency lectures,” he said.
Aguilar said the 10ID wanted the program institutionalized. He also said they started the program last year with student leaders at the University of Mindanao, Ateneo de Davao University and the Santa Ana National High School but added they wanted it intensified next year.
The human rights group Karapatan had earlier reported that soldiers have encamped in school buildings and other structures close to where civilians live, in their pursuit against NPA rebels. (Germelina Lacorte / MindaNews)