by Genalyn Kabiling and Antonio Colina IV
The government has rejected the demand of the local communist rebel group to lift the martial law in Mindanao in exchange for its assistance in fighting the Maute Group in Marawi City.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella insisted that the rebel group should not impose any condition if it was sincere in extending help in combating the common threat.
“To show the CPP-NPA-NDFP (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines) is truly in pursuit of peaceful coexistence, they must stand against the common enemy without conditions,” Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said.
“A potential cooperation is unlikely with the statement of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines that it would cooperate with the government in fighting the Maute Group if we would lift the declaration of martial law and withdraw our all-out war policy,” he said.
Abella said the administration prefers to pursue the “path of genuine dialogue to build a nation worthy of citizens.”
The NDFP has instructed its affiliated group, Moro Revolutionary Liberation Organization (MRLO), operating within the embattled Marawi City to assume home defense tasks against the Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorist groups.
In a statement released Wednesday, NDFP peace negotiating panel chair Fidel Agcaoili said they have also directed the NPA to redeploy troops near Marawi “for the purpose of mopping up, holding and blocking operations.”
He said members of the MRLO and the NPA can coordinate and cooperate with the military but emphasized they will keep a safe distance, maintain independence and initiative, and ensure they avoid problems of getting mixed up with the government forces in Marawi.
But in an exclusive interview last month, CPP founding chair Jose Maria Sison admitted that the NDFP peace panel has no control over the NPA rebels.
“No one in Utrecht can give orders to the CPP, NPA, NDFP in the Philippines,” said Sison, who is the Senior Political Consultant of the NDFP.
“The collective leading organs of the CPP, NPA, NDFP, which are based in the Philippines, are the principal of the NDFP negotiating panel. They give orders and instructions to the NDFP negotiating panel,” Sison said in that interview.
The President had earlier vowed to crush the rebellion in Marawi, which he said is funded by illegal drug money amid intensified military operations against the armed groups. Mindanao has been placed under martial law for 60 days to quell the lawless violence and violence.
Government efforts to take back Marawi, however, have been hampered by the rebels’ use of human shields and mosques as staging areas and snipers’ nest. Duterte has already appealed to some rebel groups to help government forces in combatting the terror group, saying he will give them the same privileges and benefits given to soldiers.
Responding to the President’s call, Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chair Nur Misuari has already offered 2,000 men to join the anti-terror fight.
The President initially said he has accepted Misuari’s offer but later clarified the offer was not feasible at this time. He said it would not be good to pit a Moro against a Moro. “Let us make them understand first what this is all about,” he said in a speech during a visit to Sultan Kudarat last Wednesday.
Sison had earlier said NPA rebels could be redeployed to fight armed groups sowing chaos in Marawi City. Sison, however, insisted on the establishment of ground rules on the proposed cooperation with the state forces.
Reacting to Sison’s offer, the President recently said he was “not so keen” about it although he recognized it was a sign of goodwill. He said the communist rebels must have realized they will be rendered irrelevant if the Islamic State-linked extremists prevail in Mindanao.
In his visit to a military camp in Sultan Kudarat last Tuesday, the President appealed to the NPA rebels to lay down their arms and surrender, saying he was ready to accept them as soldiers of the government.
Duterte said he does not necessarily need “bright” men but prefers “able-bodied” recruits in the military.
“Kayong mga sundalo sa New People’s Army, kung gusto ninyong sumali sa gobyerno ko, I will take you in as soldiers of the country. I will enlist you as soldiers anytime bumaba lang kayo at mag-train,” the commander-in-chief said before an assembly of soldiers in Camp Leono, Tacurong City.
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