MANILA, Philippines — The peace negotiating panel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines has asked the Communist Party of the Philippines to take back its order for the New People’s Army to intensify attacks in response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
This was disclosed by Jose Ma. Sison, NDFP chief political consultant and CPP founding chairman, on Friday, the eve of the fifth round of formal talks between the government and rebels.
But even as Sison was making his announcement, incidents involving communist rebels and government forces were being reported in the Visayas and Mindanao.
In Cotabato province, two policemen were wounded when suspected NPA guerrillas set off a roadside bomb in Kidapawan City.
And in Samar province, Army troops clashes withrebels in Matuguinao town.
On Wednesday, a day after martial law was declared, the CPP ordered the NPA to “plan and carry out more tactical offensives across Mindanao and the entire archipelago”
“The New People’s Army must be ready to accelerate the recruitment of new Red fighters as Duterte’s martial law convinces more and more people to take up arms against the rotten system,” the CPP said.
“In the face of the Duterte regime’s martial law declaration in Mindanao, the necessity of waging revolutionary armed struggle becomes ever clearer,” it said.
When Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, the government’s chief negotiator, protested the CPP order, saying it was the result of a “misreading” of Duterte’s intentions and pointing out that martial law did not target the communists, the Party replied: “If it was true that martial law in Mindanao is not directed against the NPA, then Bello must inform Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.”
“In announcing the declaration of martial law, it was Lorenzana himself who cited the NPA as one of the GRP (government)’s ‘problems” (and a reason) why the entire Mindanao had to be put under martial law,” the CPP noted.
But on Friday, Sison said: “The NDFP Negotiating Panel has recommended to the National Executive Committee of the NDFP and in effect the Central Committee of the CPP to reconsider the order to the NPA to intensify tactical offensives as response to the Lorenzana statement that the NPA is a target of martial law.”
Sison said this was after government “clarified that the NPA is not a target” of martial law. He also cited Duterte’s invitation to NDFP peace panel chairman Fidel Agcaoili “in their recent meeting that the GRP and NDFP should unite against terrorist groups like the Maute group and Abu Sayyaf.”
“We in the NDFP condemn the attack by Maute group on Marawi City,” Sison said.
“The terrorist act by the Maute group should not be an obstacle to the fifth round of formal talks but should be an incentive to the GRP and NDFP to meet and agree to fight groups that are terrorist because they target, terrorize and harm civilians solely or mainly,” he added.
Nevertheless, he said, “as chief political consultant of the NDFP, I deplore the reported statement of DND Secretary Lorenzana that the NPA is also a target of Mindanao-wide martial law.”