THE military has resumed operations against the New People’s Army (NPA) following President Rodrigo Duterte’s lifting of the unilateral ceasefire with the communist group Saturday.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Sunday said soldiers have been redeployed for combat operations against communist rebels.
Armed Forces chief Ricardo Visaya said the NPA missed a golden opportunity to manifest its commitment to the attainment of peace.
“This could have been what the Filipino nation had been waiting for – the silencing of the guns that could have hastened development especially in the countryside. As things now stand, the AFP will abide by the ensuing orders of the Commander-in-Chief President Rodrigo Duterte following this development. I am ordering all our forces to resume their normal mandated tasks and work to neutralize all threats to national security, protect the citizenry, enforce the laws and maintain peace in the land,” Visaya said.
Lt. Gen. Eduardo Ano, the Philippine Army commander, said government forces are back on their former stance against armed groups, particularly the NPA.
“We will continue what we were doing before to include military operations targeting the armed groups so whatever our stance before the [unilateral ceasefire]declaration, we are back on the same status,” Ano said.
Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr., AFP spokesman, said several military units have been deployed for combat operations since Saturday night, hours after the President revoked his ceasefire order.
The Eastern Mindanao Command also on Sunday directed all units to be on high alert and resume operations against the NPA.
“The Eastern Mindanao Command assures our countrymen that it will remain committed to protecting our communities against armed threats and in pursuing peace and development,” said Major Ezra Balagtey, an army spokesman.
The President on Friday warned he would lift the ceasefire if the Communist Party of the Philippines and NPA did not declare their own ceasefire by 5 p.m. on Saturday. The ultimatum was issued after communist rebels attacked government militias on Wednesday in Davao del Norte. One militia was killed and several others were injured in the clash.
But even if soldiers have resumed combat operations against the communist rebels, Ano said the military will continue to seek peace.
“If there’s a sector that really wants peace, the military is that sector because our mandate is to protect the country against all threats. We wanted to do our part and also to contribute and participate in the permanent resolution on this conflict. Unfortunately the CPP-NPA did not reciprocate,” he pointed out.
Should there be another chance for the declaration of a ceasefire, Ano said the military is ready to implement it.
Padilla agreed with Ano.
“It is the desire of the AFP to bring peace throughout the land. This desire to bring peace is parallel and aligned with all our missions, we are doing military missions, we’re doing military operations to secure our people, to protect our communities and to bring peace throughout the land,” Padilla said.
“We are just disappointed that the other side behaved that way. While we were on our way back to our camps they would plan to ambush and harass our troops,” he added.
Padilla denounced the attack on the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) that claimed the life of a militiaman.
“They were on the way back to camp when they were ambushed. Do you know the real story? They planted a landmine, they waited for the militias to pass and then they detonated the landmine. Then they attacked the group. We also have Scout Rangers in Agusan del Norte, they were already pulling out of their operational area and were about to be picked up by a military vehicle when waylaid. There was a 20-minute firefight,” Padilla narrated.
They blew it
The chief of the psychological warfare unit of the AFP said the communist leadership “blew a golden opportunity” when it did not reciprocate the government’s ceasefire declaration in a timely manner.
Brig. Gen. Rhoderick Parayno, commander of the Civil Relations Service, noted that the President’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 25 was not merely a confidence building measure but a springboard for peace.
One of the main tasks of the CRS is to conduct psychological operations against threat groups.
“Many of the NPA combatants we know are longing to rejoin society to be reunited with their families. As a peaceful member of the community of nations, it is our hope that our people will benefit from the rewards of peace. Let us all Filipinos – soldiers, rebels, Muslims, Christians, agnostics, everybody – give our individual equity for the achievement of peace in measurable and quantifiable deeds,” Parayno said.
He said the peace being offered by the government is a prime commodity that was well within reach but the communist leadership wasted the golden opportunity.
Parayno said communist rhetorics do not contribute to the quest for peace “unless what is being said is given flesh through genuine and sincere actions.”