ARMED Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año had harsh words for the New People’s Army (NPA) as peace talks between the government and communist rebels resumed in the Netherlands on Sunday.
The AFP chief also appealed to the public to report all NPA attempts at extortion so that law enforcers and soldiers could act immediately, adding that economic growth had been impeded by the “acts of masquerading ideologues who have degenerated into plain terrorists and extortionists.”
“The chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, following a series of violent NPA activities that saw the burning of farm implements and construction equipment employed for infrastructure development, calls on the public to condemn all these atrocities and anti-development activities,” the military said in a statement.
The AFP noted that since the resumption of hostilities with the NPA in February, more than 60 incidents of arson and extortion said to have been conducted by the rebels have been recorded.
“AFP-initiated operations in response to information provided by concerned citizens swelled to 104 since [February 4] this year up to the end of March,” the military claimed.
The government and the communist rebels lifted their unilateral truce declarations in February when peace talks bogged down over a rebel demand to free their detained comrades.
The AFP again accused the NPA of taking advantage of the ceasefire to extort money from businessmen and “peace-loving” citizens, adding that the continued attacks were among the reasons the government could not agree to another unilateral ceasefire.
“We have a mandate to follow and that is to protect our people,” Año said in the same statement.
“For the peace talks to succeed, we have to see more sincerity on their part. We now see the concrete manifestation of the evil in our society that has been a major cause of underdevelopment, the anti-development and anti-people activities of the NPA,” he added.
The AFP issued the statement a day after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana tagged the NPA as “terrorists” and “anti-poor.”
Lorenzana pointed out that NPA rebels had attacked and ambushed military and police personnel “on home leaves.”
“They did these nefarious acts after they have asked for the resumption of peace talks and after they have announced that they will go on a unilateral ceasefire,” the Defense chief said.
“They are anti-development, anti-progress and anti-poor,” he added.
Lorenzana called upon “all peace-loving Filipinos to resist these thugs, these terrorists who have brought nothing but misery to the Filipino people in the past 48 years.”