PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday denounced the fatal ambush of a police team allegedly by the New People’s Army (NPA), and ordered government forces to “wage war” against the communist rebels.
Speaking to reporters in Davao del Sur, Duterte directed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to use all assets in battling the communist group.
“There are no peace talks. It’s totally absent. So, in the meantime, I would just also ask the Armed Forces and the police, just go ahead and wage a war against them. Anything goes and I will allow the police and the military this time to use all available assets,” the President said.
“I’m sorry that this gory incident had to happen. But I can assure everybody that the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police would respond. This time I’m using everything. I have encouraged the police to call in the air assets,” he added.
Duterte’s statement came a day after communist rebels allegedly killed four police personnel in an ambush early Wednesday in the outskirts of Bansalan, Davao del Sur.
Killed in action were Police Officer (PO) 1 Rolly Benelayo, PO1 Joe Narvaza, PO1 Saro Mangutara, all members of Bansalan Municipal Police Station; and PO3 Jayden May Rabor, a crime scene operative in Digos City.
The ambush occurred as the government and the communist rebels were planning back-channel talks on resuming peace negotiations.
Repeated clashes between communist rebels and government troops prompted Duterte to cancel the peace talks in January. Duterte’s decision not to release around 400 political prisoners was also blamed for the collapse of the talks.
The back-channel talks have given hope that the two sides would soon return to the negotiating table.
Duterte, however, said that before negotiations resume, communist rebels must cease attacking government troops and stop collecting so-called revolutionary taxes.
In Malacañang, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the ambush would have an effect on efforts to revive peace talks with the communist rebels.
Abella said the President wanted the Communist Party of the Philippines, the NPA and their negotiating arm, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, to be responsible for their members.