PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has issued another “ultimatum” to communist rebels, calling on them to stop landmine attacks or else he would call off the resumption of peace talks.
The President was in Camp Panacan in Davao City early Sunday morning, visiting the wake of soldiers killed in clashes with the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
In his speech, Duterte told the communist rebels to stop the use of landmines as it violated the Geneva Convention on war crimes.
“One of the important, and very, maybe, humane provisions [of the Convention]is landmines are not allowed … It cannot be a different rule for you, and a different rule for the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the police,” Duterte said.
“Decide now! Include the landmine [use]in the peace talks or else, no peace talks … I am not pleading this time. That is an ultimatum,” he added.
On Friday, four soldiers were killed while 10 others were wounded in two separate incidents involving NPA landmines in Compostela Valley.
Supporting the President’s statement, Army spokesman Col. Benjamin Hao pointed to the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHIHL), which the communists signed together with the Government of the Philippines.
Under CARHIHL, civilians must be distinguished from combatants and must not be the object of attacks. They must also be protected against the use of landmines.
“In case the rebels continue to use landmines, it will not stop the Philippine Army (from running) after them until the rebels agree to a peaceful resolution to this internal security problem,” Hao said.
Duterte’s statement came two weeks before formal talks with the National Democratic Front, the political arm of the CPP, on August 20 to 27 in Oslo, Norway.
To support the resumption of the negotiations, Duterte declared a ceasefire with the rebels during his first State of the Nation Address on July 25.
The President, however, revoked the truce five days later due to the failure of the communists to declare their own ceasefire.
The Duterte administration is trying to secure the release of jailed communist leaders so they can join the talks.
The Supreme Court on Friday ordered the release of three leaders but said it could not free 11 others as they have pending cases in the lower courts.
CATHERINE S. VALENTE AND PNA