DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 8 June) – The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) has instructed its affiliated group, the
Moro Revolutionary Liberation Organization (MRLO), operating within the embattled Marawi City to assume home defense tasks against the Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorist groups.
In a statement released Wednesday, NDFP peace negotiating panel chair Fidel Agcaoili said they have also directed the New People’s Army (NPA) to redeploy troops near Marawi “for the purpose of mopping up, holding and blocking operations.”
He said members of the MRLO and the NPA can coordinate and cooperate with the military but emphasized they will keep a safe distance, maintain independence and initiative, and ensure they avoid problems of getting mixed up with government forces in Marawi.
There is no bilateral ceasefire agreement signed between government (GRP) and NDFP.
Although during the fourth round of talks held from April 3 to 7 in The Netherlands, the parties signed an agreement on Interim Joint Ceasefire, which is supposed to take effect upon the approval and signing of the ground rules and will be effective until a permanent ceasefire agreement is forged as part of the Comprehensive Agreement on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces (CAEHDF).
Both parties were supposed to take up ceasefire and Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) in the fifth rounds scheduled on May 27 to June 2 in The Netherlands but the GRP backed out following President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to the government panel not to sit across the negotiating table “until such time as there are clear indications that an enabling environment conducive to achieving just and sustainable peace in the land” can be had. It was the President’s reaction to the NDFP’s instruction to NPA units to intensify offensives across the country with Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
It was the second time the GRP-NDFP talks were cancelled. The first was in February when NPA spokesperson Jorge Madlos announced on Feb. 1 they were terminating their unilateral ceasefire effective Feb. 10. Duterte announced two days later that the government was lifting its unilateral ceasefire, too.
On March 10 to 11, the GRP and NDFP peace negotiating panels held backchannel talks in Utrecht, The Netherlands in hope to revive the peace talks.
“The GRP is culpable in the first place for waging a nationwide all-out war policy of aerial bombardments and artillery attacks against the revolutionary forces and people since last year and has aggravated this policy by proclaiming martial law all over Mindanao, far beyond Marawi and the bailiwicks of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorist groups,” Agcaoili said.
He urged Duterte to lift the government’s all-our war policy and martial law that was declared on May 23.
Agcaoili encouraged the President to allow the GRP negotiating panel to meet with their counterpart from the NDFP to discuss ceasefire and possible coordination and cooperation between the government and communist forces against terrorists groups in Marawi and other areas.
“The localized ceasefire, coordination and cooperation can be agreed upon if the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels meet first and discuss matters in detail,” he said.
He said it is not late for a meeting between GRP and NDFP negotiating panels “because the terrorist attack on Marawi might still be prolonged or if suppressed soon, might recur in other parts of Bangsamoro.”
“The US, anti-Duterte sections of the AFP and PNP and local anti-Duterte parties and groups have already begun a campaign of destabilizing the Duterte regime for the purpose of overthrowing this with a coup,” Agcaoili said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)