The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is more than ready to counter attacks or violent activities that might be conducted by the New People’s Army (NPA) in the countryside following reports that militant groups will stage protest actions on Friday.
“If there are violent activities to be conducted by (the) CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines)-NPA outside of Metro Manila, we are also prepared for them. As you know, we are in two modes, election mode and combat mode. Combat mode is continuous. We are going against all CPP-NPA in the countryside. (They) have lost a lot already, and soon enough we will be able to defeat them,” said AFP spokesperson, Army Col. Ramon Zagala, during the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) special press conference.
He also assured the public that the AFP is in “control of order” especially against the NPA”.
“And to those here in the urban areas, we will support the PNP (Philippine National Police) for operations against any untoward incident,” Zagala said.
Also, the AFP spokesperson maintained that they respect the decision of some groups to gather and conduct protest actions in Metro Manila in connection with the just concluded elections.
“Like I said earlier, we have freedom of expression. They wish to assemble, we respect that. Our info really is there will be a rally. We see in the AFP no problem,” Zagala said, noting that the Philippines is a free country and a democracy.
But, he said that those participating in these actions, especially their leaders, must be aware of the identities of people or groups joining them to prevent infiltration from CPP-NPA members and their allies.
“However, we wish them to be discerning. Study well sino ang kasama mo (who your companions are). The freedom of expression goes both ways. You can say what you want, that is your freedom, we respect that,” the AFP spokesperson said.
Also, Zagala urged others to respect the opinion of individuals who do not agree with their point of view. “Our freedom of expression is for everyone, it’s not selective. So for everyone, we’d like to assure you that (the) AFP will follow the rule of law, support our democratic institutions, and protect our Constitution,” he said.
Zagala also stressed that the AFP believes in the rallyists’ rights to expression and assembly as this highlights the democratic process.
“We believe in the AFP that rallyists’ (right to) expression, the right to assemble, manifests our healthy democratic processes and institutions and our rights, which is not present in other forms of government. So we will be prepared to support the PNP, we have enough forces to support the PNP to secure these areas,” he said.
For his part, PNP officer-in-charge, Lt. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr., who was also present at the briefing, maintained that the recently concluded national and local elections were “very, very peaceful and normal.”
“We can proudly say the results of the national and local elections comparing it to the last national election, the conduct is very peaceful and normal compared to 2016,” he said.
Danao earlier said the public must be vigilant especially when doing public gatherings where safety and health protocols must still be achieved.
“Now is another opportunity to show goodwill by being responsible citizens of this country. The essence of real democracy is grounded on respect and discipline fostering the general welfare of the Filipinos,” he added.
PNP spokesperson, Col. Jean Fajardo, said the police will always exercise maximum tolerance.
“Nagbigay na po ng instruction ‘yung ating OIC si Police Lieutenant General Vicente Danao na ang mga magbabantay po para po dito sa gagawing protesta ay to exercise maximum restraint and tolerance nga (PNP OIC Lt. Gen. Vicente Danao already gave instruction to policemen assigned in protest rally to exercise maximum restraint and tolerance),” she said at a recent Laging Handa briefing.
The Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
The Anti-Terrorism Council also formally designated the National Democratic Front (NDF) as a terrorist organization on June 23, 2021, citing it as “an integral and inseparable part” of the CPP-NPA that was created in April 1973.
Source: Philippines News Agency