President Rodrigo Duterte has not ordered the termination of peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), a spokesperson for the chief executive said on Tuesday.
“As of this moment, there’s no instruction from the President to discontinue the government’s peace negotiations,” Undersecretary Ernesto Abella told reporters during a press conference after the CPP’s armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), attacked a police outpost in Iloilo on Sunday.
The statement also followed calls by some lawmakers to hold off peace negotiations with the communist rebels as it was not in control of some NPA units involved in the recent attacks.
Police said some 50 NPA guerrillas on board a truck staged the raid and carted away firearms, communications equipment and a patrol vehicle.
Sunday’s attack on a police station in Iloilo came after Malacañang and the National Democratic Front (NDF)– in separate statements last week – agreed to put a stop to offensive strikes against each other in Mindanao so that security forces could focus on ending the conflict in Marawi City by Maute terrorists.
Calling anew the NPA “opportunistic” for attacking the police station, Abella challenged the communist group to take more steps towards continuing the peace talks.
“First and foremost, it’s unfortunate that the NPA raid of the station in Iloilo happened from the same day that the government reciprocated the NDF’s declaration to refrain from undertaking offensive operations in Mindanao. However, although the attack was not in Mindanao, the act was clearly opportunistic,” Abella said.
“So we’ve asked the NDF to call on their armed comrades on the ground to respond in kind and show genuine sincerity on the confidence-building measure initiated by the government and their side. Basically, we want a firmer response,” he added. CATHERINE VALENTE