Ceasefire with NPA rebels continues despite the attack

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY- The government would continue to honor the unilateral ceasefire with the communist rebels despite the attacks by the New People's Army (NPA) on government troopers in Northern Mindanao, a top official said Wednesday.

Sec. Jesus Dureza of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) made the statement during a visit on the occasion of the 47th founding anniversary of the Philippine Army at Camp Evangelista here Wednesday.

Dureza, who heads the government's peace panel, has expressed dismay over the announcement of the National Democratic Front (NDF) that it would no longer honor the unilateral ceasefire effective Feb. 10 but would continue to support the peace negotiation.

Dureza said that the government peace panel has expressed "dismayed" over the NDF announcement since both the government and the NDF have made some progress during the third round of talks in Rome, Italy.

In Rome, he said, "both sides agreed to further the discussion about the bilateral ceasefire in The Netherlands sometime end of this month."

In a statement released through the social media Wednesday, Jorge Madlos, the NDF-Mindanao spokesperson, said that the NDF would end the "unilateral ceasefire" effective Feb. 10, 2017.

Madlos issued the statement after confirming that the NPA, the military arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), conducted simultaneous attacks on the military in Northern Mindanao and the Caraga Region last Monday and Tuesday.

Three government troopers were slightly wounded in the attack while Private First Class Erwin Salan, of Alegria, Surigao Del Norte, was held captive last Jan. 29.

Madlos said that the Duterte administration had not fulfilled its promise of giving amnesty and release of all political detainees now languishing in jails all over the country.

Madlos, however, assured that although the NPA would no longer observe the unilateral ceasefire, the NDF would still support the peace talks.

Dureza said that the government peace panel respected the NPA decision and would recommend to President Rodrigo Duterte that government would also continue to abide the unilateral ceasefire.

However, Dureza said it would be Duterte's "judgment call" on what course of action to take in the light of the latest development.

He said that the government peace panel would make the recommendation, but it would still be Duterte's "judgment call on what course of action to take in light of this development."

However, Dureza said that the military would still be mobilized to coordinate with the local law enforcers in running after lawless elements in the country.

On the allegation that the Duterte administration failed to release the 420 political prisoners, Dureza said that the government could not just easily free those who are facing criminal charges as there was still a legal process to comply with.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana who was also present during the anniversary celebration, told the government troopers to observe the unilateral ceasefire, but should not hesitate to defend themselves against any threats.

Lorenzana said soldiers should respond accordingly to any harassment and should fight back once attack by the rebels.

Dureza said that government panel and the NDF negotiators had remained optimistic that both sides could agree to a bilateral ceasefire so any violations committed by either party could be addressed promptly. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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