A day after branding them “terrorists,” President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday afternoon announced an order to arrest all leftist leaders freed by the government to participate in peace talks.
Police and the military however began arrests even before the President’s announcement, with a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the communist political arm, and two companions nabbed in a checkpoint at the President’s home city of Davao on Monday.
The consultant was identified as Ariel Arbitrario, who was accompanied by driver Rosario Sinday and Roderick Mamuyac.
Mamuyac is allegedly a regional liaison officer of the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines. He has a warrant of arrest for murder, said Capt. Rhyan Batchar, spokesman of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division.
Duterte told reporters he will no longer talk with the communists and that the government will start hunting down NDFP consultants.
“We’ll start to look for them and start to arrest them if they were in prison before and released on the condition that they’re needed for talks,” the President said.
In his speech during the launch of the “Hardin ng Lunas” livelihood program at the Presidential Security Group compound in Malacañang, Duterte called the communist rebels “spoiled brats” and “arrogant” for making unreasonable demands such as freedom for 400 rebels detained on criminal charges.
“I tried my best to make peace with everybody… These communists, they are spoiled brats. You’d think they’re the ones in government by the way they make demands,” he said.
“Peace is not possible during our generation. I’m sorry, I’m not about to talk to them again,” the President added.
Duterte on Saturday scrapped peace talks with the communist rebels following the withdrawal of the unilateral ceasefire declarations by the two sides.
The President’s statement is the latest in a series of stinging remarks since the end of the unilateral truce last week. On Sunday, Duterte labelled the communist rebels “terrorists.”
“They are categorized as terrorists. We do not look upon the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines as a rebel group anymore,” Duterte said.
The NDFP said on Sunday it would wait for the formal notice from the government panel on the termination of the peace talks, as “mandated in the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig).”
The agreement between the government and the NDFP, signed on February 24, 1995, protects from arrest negotiators, consultants, staffers, security and other personnel who participate in the peace negotiations.
NDFP senior adviser Luis Jalandoni on Monday said Duterte was being “emotional,” as he expressed doubt that NPA rebels were responsible for killing three soldiers in Bukidnon last week.
The killing could have been a “rubout” by military men on their fellow soldiers, he said, a statement immediately denounced by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Col. Edgard Arevalo as “kalokohan” (foolishness).
Combat ops launched
The military on Monday launched combat operations against NPA guerrillas in the countryside, “acting on orders from the President,” said Arevalo.
Arevalo said the operations were conducted in areas where NPA rebels had harassed residents and extorted money.
The military will also launch rescue operations for three soldiers abducted by the rebel group in Sultan Kudarat.
Reports reaching Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City said that on February 5, troops from the Philippine Army’s 76th Infantry Battalion, 2nd Infantry Divsion encountered at least 20 guerrillas in Sta. Cruz, Occidental Mindoro.
The group, according to 1st Lt. Xy-zon Meneses, 2nd Infrantry Division spokesman, was the same band of rebels that attacked a security detachment in Nasugbu, Batangas on January 31, when the ceasefire was still in effect.
The firefight lasted for about 30 minutes, resulting in the killing of a rebel.
On the same day, a platoon under 2nd Lt. Edmar Colagong encountered a band of NPA rebels in Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte. There were no casualties reported as the rebels withdrew following a three-minute firefight.
In Lambunao, Iloilo, an Army platoon encountered an undetermined number of NPA rebels.
The military also captured Lito Elmidolan, allegedly a technical staff member of the NPA’s Komisyon ng Mindanao and his wife Maria Bella, a finance officer of the group, near Ozamiz Port in Misamis Occidental.
The military said the two were arrested on a warrant of arrest issued by the Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur’s 10th Judicial Region, for multiple attempted murder.
with FERNAN MARASIGAN