Palace shrugs off Joma's threat for NPA to kill one soldier a day
Malacanang shrugged off on Monday the statement of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison that the New People's Army (NPA) could kill at least one soldier every day to compel the government to return to the negotiating table.
In a press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said there was nothing new in Sison's threat since the rebels have been attacking the government troops even when peace negotiations were going on.
"So go ahead, make all the threats he want," he said.
Roque said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) would not bend to the rebels.
While President Rodrigo Duterte did not want war, he said Sison should not threaten the government as if the rebels have control over the Philippines.
Sison, who is self-exiled in the Netherlands, has said the NPA has the capacity to knock out at least one soldier every day per region or could eliminate at least 510 troopers or some five companies every month nationwide.
He has said the NPA could do this to pressure the Duterte administration to return to the negotiating table.
Duterte has terminated the peace talks with the CPP-NPA-National Democratic Front (NDF) last year due to the atrocities that the rebels continue to commit.
Meanwhile, on the warning of Anakpawis party-list Representative Ariel Casilao that the government peace negotiators might be abducted by the rebels due to the arrest of some leftist consultants, Roque said Duterte is committed to ensure the safety of the government peace panel members.
"Our security forces are ready to perform their mandate at all times," he said.
"(If) the NPA and the NDF are really serious and sincere in pursuing peaceful means to end their decades-long conflict with government, threats of retaliation, real or not, are detrimental to the course and will serve no purpose. We reiterate our call to the NPA fighters on the ground to lay down their arms and return to the fold of the law," he stressed.
Roque also wondered why Casilao seemed to know the plan of the NPA.
"Curiously, it appears that Congressman Casilao appears to be privy to information from inside the New People’s Army. And to me, he sounded like he was speaking on behalf of the NPA with his warning, that government negotiators may also be arrested by the NPA ? that will be crime; that would be kidnapping, if not, a violation also of the IHL (International Humanitarial Law) because combatants will be apprehending innocent civilians," he said.
He noted that peace negotiators are not combatants and only Philippine law enforcement agencies have the power to effect arrests.
"So, the NPA has absolutely no legal basis to arrest members of the government peace panel. It is criminal, it is a war crime. It is the NPA that refused to follow the rule of law," Roque said. Celerina Monte/DMS