Military rejects communists’ request to suspend operations in some areas
The military rejects the communist group’s request to suspend military operation in some parts of Mindanao to give way for the release of the four kidnap victims of the New People’s Army (NPA), a spokesman said Thursday.
“We will help facilitate the release but we will not accede to the demands of the other side because if they are really sincere in doing what they need to do as a form of goodwill in releasing the kidnap victims or hostages that they hold, that is easy to do that. They can just turn them over to third party facilitators,” Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.
“The demands have been quite many, a period of 10 days for ceasefire just for the release and the clearing of I think eight areas if I’m not mistaken or more for our troops to pull out. This is untenable, this is something that we should observe,” he said.
Padilla said the military has a mandate to “ to protect our people and preserve the integrity and sovereignty of our country, as mandated institutions of government your military and police has to continue performing its constitutional mandate and we will not pull out.”.
Padilla made his statement after the National Democratic Front (NDF) called for the declaration of suspension of military and police operation in Bukidnon, Agusan Norte and Surigao Norte to give way for the release of the NPA hostages.
Major. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, Army’s 4th Infantry Division chief which covers these provinces, said they will continue its operation in the areas against the rebels.
“The declaration of SOMO (suspension of military operation) is a prerogative of the president. In the absence of such declaration, we continue in performing our mandate of protecting communities against terroristic attacks by the NPAs such as burning of equipment and extortion activities,” he said.
“As it happened in Davao, they were able to release their hostages there without any SOMO/SOPO ( suspension of police operation). They can simply leave them to local officials without any fanfare,” he added.
Col. Edgard Arevalo, AFP Public Affairs chief, said the ceasefire will not be declared despite the signing of the joint interim ceasefire agreement between the CPP and the government peace panel.
“We are pleased to learn that the document which shall pave the way to the ceasefire has been signed. Meantime that there is no ceasefire declaration yet, there will be no corresponding Suspension Of Military Operations for the moment,” he said.
“While we give primacy to the peace process, we have to continue with our focused, deliberate, and surgical combat, intelligence and civil-military operations for the meantime,” he added.
Padilla said the suspension of military and police operation may be declared when the guidelines and the ground rules for the joint ceasefire agreement was already approved and signed by both parties.
Arevalo said the military will pursue their mandate as protector of the people and the state by defeating any armed groups of any affiliation to uphold the law, maintain peace in the communities, and protect the lives of our people.
“We are hopeful that the negotiators from both sides will soon be able to finalize and approve the guidelines and ground rules that will ultimately lead to the declaration of ceasefire,” he said. Robina Asido/DMS