The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said on Wednesday that the declaration of martial law was not only meant to fight local terrorist groups in Mindanao but also aimed to crush communist insurgency and illegal drug syndicates in the region.
During the “Mindanao Hour” news briefing in Malacanang, AFP spokesman Restituto Padilla Jr. admitted that the New People’s Army (NPA) has since become the target of the martial law after it intensified its attacks against government forces following the declaration.
He said one of the military’s key tasks was to degrade the armed capabilities of the NPA, under the AFP Operational Directive No. 2 or the AFP’s Implementation of Martial Law.
“They issued a directive that said you should heighten or enhance the attack against the PNP [Philippine National Police] and the Armed Forces. So that was just in answer to that. If there were no declarations, then that would not have been part of it,” Padilla told reporters.
“Because of that directive of the NPA, it’s a tit-for-tat. So why would we not forewarn our men… if we know that they are leaning forward to attack and destroy our forces?” he added.
But Padilla clarified that the military has no intention to foil the peace negotiations between the government and the communists.
“Having that does not necessarily mean that we’re stopping the peace talks. So actually, the NPA and the Armed Forces are in a talk-and-fight and fight-and-talk situation. So but it would have been more desirable to have a silencing of the guns while the peace talks is ongoing,” he said.
“But the commitment to continue with the peace talks is there. Government is sincere, it has shown it many times over, the Armed Forces has done the same. We are waiting for an act of sincerity on the part of the other party as well,” he added. “So the President has made a declaration and an openness to have the formality of the peace talks resume once again. So that’s a good indication because we still have the capacity to revive what we are slowly losing if we keep on fighting.”
On June 30, Malacañang warned that the NPA was planning to raid “people-oriented programs and infrastructure projects” in strife-torn Mindanao and key cities of the country.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd, government’s chief peace negotiator, said on Tuesday that the negotiating panels of the government and the communist group would meet in third or last week of July to tackle issues that would be discussed in the resumption of talks.
Peace panels from the government and the communists suspended the talks following the “serious” challenges both parties were facing, including NPA’s “offensive” attacks nationwide.
The NPA reportedly staged attacks in Mindanao, including Mati City, Davao Oriental; Calatrava, Negros Occidental; and Panabo City, Davao del Norte, despite the declaration of truce in the island to pave way for the ongoing armed conflict in Marawi City.
President Rodrigo Duterte, in a speech delivered at the 50th founding anniversary of Davao del Norte, said that he remaied committed to pursuing the peace dialogue with the communist rebels.