Reds boast of ‘victory’ as panel signs ceasefire deal

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ZAMBOANGA CITY: Communist rebels on Thursday boasted of their victory against government forces in Mindanao, owning up to a spate of attacks on soldiers in the rich, but restive region.

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Rigoberto Sanchez, spokesman for the New People’s Army (NPA), said the attacks targeted at least three Army battalions – 28th, 60th and 72nd – in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental provinces where five soldiers were killed recently.

He accused the Army as behind the series of extrajudicial killings of civilians accused as either supporter sor sympathizers of the rebel group. “NPA units launched a series of tactical offensives against the atrocious 60th, 72nd and 28th infantry battalions, including [pro-government militia group] CAFGU for their numerous war crimes of peasant killings, aerial bombardment and other human rights violations in Laak town in Compostela Valley and in Mati City, Davao Oriental,” Sanchez said.

“These punitive actions were directed at the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] battalions and their rabid CAFGU that have perpetrated the most heinous violations which can only be described as war crimes against lumad and peasants in their areas of operation in barely two months since the declaration of the government’s all-out war,” he added.

Sanchez said over 170 families have fled the villages of Tagbinunga, Don Salvador and Calatagan, all in Mati City because of military bombardment that killed farmer Jeffrey Santos and illegal arrested 11 other civilians. He said three civilians – Cora Molave Lino and couple Arlyn and Arman Almonicar – were also killed by soldiers in the village of Bollucan in Laak town that triggered an exodus of civilians.

“These war crimes, which are similarly prevalent in other parts of the country, only showcase exactly what – hitting them hard and flattening the hills [that President Duterte]ordered the military – actually mean. Unarmed civilians are fair game in the fascist rampage of AFP troops in southern Mindanao,” he said.

“As more and more fascist attacks are being committed against defenseless civilians under Oplan Kapayapaan, the murderous troops of the AFP and other reactionary forces are sure to be met head-on not only by tactical offensives of the NPA, but also by all forms of revolutionary resistance of the people they have so viciously victimized in the wake of their all-out war,” Sanchez added.

On Wednesday, government peace negotiators led by Silvestre Bello 3rd announced they signed an interim truce with the rebels after the resumption of stalled talks with the National Democratic Front headed by Fidel Agcaoili in The Netherlands, but the ceasefire would only take effect as soon ass guidelines and ground rules are approved.

The guidelines will govern such areas as the presence of armed groups in local communities; creation of buffer zones; prohibited, hostile and provocative acts including the collection of revolutionary taxes; and undertaking of joint socio-economic projects.

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