by Antonio Colina IV, Mike Crismundo, and Genalyn Kabiling
Davao City – A militiaman was killed while five members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) were injured when about a hundred NPA rebels clad in military uniform set up a checkpoint using the signage of Task Force Davao in Barangay Katipunan, Arakan, North Cotabato and sprayed bullets at the two-vehicle convoy yesterday morning.
Eastern Mindanao Command (EMC) spokesperson Maj. Ezra Balagtey said the convoy with 10 PSG members onboard were heading towards Cagayan de Oro City from Davao City.
“They are from Davao and they will preposition in CDO for the scheduled (presidential) visit to troops involved in Marawi to boost their morale,” he said.
PSG spokesperson Lt. Col. Mike Aquino said,upon seeing the checkpoint,”’yung isang vehicle bahagyang bumagal takbo for the checkpoint, ‘yung kasunod na vehicle nakapuna na parang hindi lehitimong military checkpoint ‘yun, kaya doon na nagkabakbakan (One of the two vehicles slowed down for the checkpoint while the other noticed that it was not a legitimate military checkpoint, resulting in the firefight),” Aquino said.
The rebels who wore camouflage uniforms similar to the one being worn by Task Force (TF) Davao fled towards Bgy. Gambudes also in Arakan bringing along a police asset as hostage, Rogelio Mago Genon, 60 as government troops and air assets responded to the ambush site.
The fatality was identified as Ben Padia
The TF Davao is operating in downtown Davao, including its exit and entry points and “Arakan is not included in our area of operations.”
Balagtey believes the rebels also suffered an undetermined number of casualties during the encounter.
Balagtey said the wounded were brought to German Doctors in Marilog but were immediately transferred to Camp Panacan Station Hospital in Felix Apolinario Naval Station in Davao City.
“Casualties were already given medical treatment and the rest are in safe area,” he said.
PSG commander Col. Louie Dagoy said the incident won’t affect the President’s future activities.
The communist group earlier ordered the NPA to carry out “armed counteractions and offensives across the country to defeat the Mindanao martial law and nationwide all-out war.” The communist group is opposed to an extended martial law in Mindanao amid concerns it would prolong restrictions to freedom as well aggravate violations of people’s rights.
President Duterte wanted the declaration extended until December 31, 2017.
Prior to the Arakan ambush, NPA rebels belonging to the Guerilla Front committee 19 operating in Northeastern Mindanao swooped down on the banana plantation of DOLE Philippines in Barangay Anahao Daan, Tago in Surigao del Sur Tuesday and chopped down eight-hectares of full-grown bananas.
The rebels also burned six hauler trucks owned by the contractor of the banana company.
Military and police intelligence sources who requested anonymity said the incident might have been prompted by DOLE’s refusal to give in to the extortion activities of the NPA.
On the same day, NPA rebels fired upon a civilian property and burned three heavy equipments owned by an industrial corporation in Sitio Bioborjan, Bgy. Rizal, Surigao city.
The attack, according to Army 2nd Lt. Jonel Castillo created fear among workers and residents in the area.
Castillo, the Civil Military Operations (CMO) Officer of the 30th Infantry Battalion, said the rebels gravely violated the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect to Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
“These Communists Terrorists have been deliberately attacking civilians disregarding the CARHIRIHL every time. It is clear that Section 4, Article 4 of the CARHRIHL states that civilian population together with their property shall not be the object of attack.” Castillo said.
“According to the agreement, civilians should always be treated humanely and shall likewise be protected against arson, strafing, and other similar forms of destroying lives and property.” he added.
The CARHRIHL was signed by GPH and NDFP in March 1998 in The Hague, The Netherlands.
NO PEACE TALKS
The government called on the communist rebels to divert their energy towards the fight against the common enemy of terrorism in Mindanao instead of launching offensives against the government forces in protest of the proposed martial law extension in the south.
“To show that the CPP/NPA/NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/ National Democratic Front) is truly in pursuit of peaceful coexistence, they must stand against a common enemy, regardless of martial law extension,” presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said.
He said the administration has shown in many occasions its “strong commitment to bring peace,” adding it was the rebels’ turn to prove good faith.
“It is time for the CPP/NPA/NDFP to reciprocate the government’ gestures of goodwill by ending their extortion and criminal activities and re-directing their energy to help eradicate terrorism and violent extremism in Mindanao,” he said.
The President, meantime, took another swipe at the communist rebels for acting like children throwing tantrums whenever their demands are not met.
Duterte said his government has shown good faith to the peace process with the CPP, such as declaring a truce, but the rebels continued to attack forces.
“I declared a ceasefire, hoping that those crazy guys there would respond favorably to our importuning for peace,” he said during the turnover of new pistols to the military in Malacanang last Tuesday.
“They only wanted to talk, nothing more, except that to make demands. And when it is not granted, parang batang nag-ta-tantrums, [they’re like a child throwing a tantrum],” he added.
If the rebels refuse to end the fighting, the President said the government has nothing else to do but protect the State and the people.
“We have to protect government because the government is the agency through which the will of the people is expressed,” he said.
“And the majority of the people have repudiated communism and with all its brutality and nothing really to offer to the country. It’s almost bankrupt,” he added.
And the latest on the peace talks: President Duterte has refused to resume talks with the CPP if the rebels would not stop attacking government forces.
The President imposed the condition on the peace negotiations during the meeting with the government peace panel in Malacañang last Tuesday.
“The President directed the government panel negotiating with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) not to resume formal peace talks unless the Reds agree to stop their attacks against government troops in Mindanao,” a Palace statement read.(With reports from Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos and Francis T. Wakefield)
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