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Malacañang assails NPA’s ‘insincerity’ to peace talks

By Ted Tuvera and Mario J. Mallari

Malacañang yesterday slammed the “opportunistic” rebels who took advantage of the recent leeway given to them by the government as they ransacked an Iloilo police station last Sunday.
At a Palace briefing, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said that the New People’s Army (NPA) unit that broke into the Maasin town police station on broad daylight only shows how insincere the rebel movement is in the peace process.
The NPA raid happened the same day when Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) chief negotiator to the National Democratic Front (NDF) and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III issued a statement recommending state security forces to minimize attacks against communist elements in Mindanao.
On Saturday, NDF chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili also said that the NPA was ordered to “refrain from carrying out offensive operations against the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).”
“It’s unfortunate that the NPA raid of a police station in Iloilo happened on the same day the government reciprocated the National Democratic Front’s declaration to refrain from undertaking offensive operations in Mindanao,” Abella told reporters in Malacañang.
“Although the attack was not in Mindanao, the act was opportunistic in nature and disregards the nature of the NDF declaration. We ask the NDF to call on their armed comrades on the ground to walk that talk and to show genuine sincerity on the confidence building measure initiated by the government and their side,” he added.
As if attuned to President Duterte’s war on illegal drugs, the NPA-Panay Regional Command claimed that the raid was a punishment for cops who allegedly “allow narcotics and illegal gambling to proliferate” in the town north of Iloilo City.
The rebels also said that the attack was made to avenge the citizens that allegedly asked them to get-back over extortion schemes done by the Maasin police on small-time market vendors.
But Malacañang and the AFP are not buying the excuses raised by the left-wing insurgents.
“It seems to be ill-timed... You know, there was an agreement that was being signed, so what kind of message that is sent? So I suggest that they carefully calibrate their actions,” Abella said.
Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, for his part in the same Palace briefing yesterday, said that the communists’ explanation is an old-tune that should not be believed.
Padilla also said that the NPAs capitalized on the decreased number of troops in Western Visayas as they were augmented to join the government’s bid to recapture Marawi City from the Islamic State (IS)-inspired Maute militants.
“Their excuse is a spoiled one. Nobody should take it seriously. They do this intentionally because of their objective to get more arms,” Padilla said.
“One of the reasons they did the attack on Maasin, we know, is because many of our troops went to help in Mindanao. So when the forces were spread thin, they knew that they can do this, they took advantage. That’s why we say, it’s very opportunistic on their part,” he added.
Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza, for his part, lamented the incident, saying that it should not affect the hopes of a bilateral ceasefire between the government and the communist rebels.
“It is disheartening to note that such attacks provide a negative impact in our mutual commitment with the NDF to provide that enabling environment conducive to the continuation of peace negotiations with them,” Dureza said in a statement.
Fresh Reds attacks in Quezon
The NPA rebels in Quezon Province also defied the NDFP, which calls for the stoppage of attacks — burning down equipment of a cellular site in Catanauan town before ambushing responding Army troops on Sunday.
Lt. Xy-zon Meneses, public affairs officer of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division (ID), said that more or less 10 NPA rebels swooped down on Globe Cell Site in Barangay Tuhian, Catanauan at around 8:04 p.m.
The rebels immediately set two generators inside the compound on fire
“Witnesses said that the perpetrators were wearing Army pattern camouflage uniform when they forcibly entered the compound,” Meneses said.
“After the burning, the NPAs boarded a Nissan white van with horizontal blue stripe at the center of its body. It was last seen proceeding towards Mulanay,” he added.
Meneses said that elements of the Army’s 85th Infantry Battalion (IB) were dispatched to respond to the reported burning incident but were hit by an improvised explosive device (IED) on their way to the site.
He said that five NPA rebels detonated the IED at around 8:30 p.m. along Barangay Ajos — hitting the Army’s KM450 trucks on the left side of the door.
Two Army soldiers, identified as Cpl. Dennis Moran and Cpl. Humphry Faller, were wounded in the road side bombing.
“They were brought to the hospital and are now in stable condition and are out of the hospital already,” Meneses said of the soldiers who sustained shrapnel wounds.
Meneses said that Maj. Gen. Rhoderick Parayno, 2nd ID commander, directed the 85th IB to track down the NPA band.

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