MANILA – (UPDATE 2, 8:45 p.m.) President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday issued an order officially declaring the New People’s Army, the armed component of the Communist Party of the Philippines, a terrorist organization, making good on an earlier threat to do so after breaking peace negotiations with the Left.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, who made the announcement in a press briefing at Malacañang, said the presidential order actually cites the “CPP-NPA” as the terrorist group.
Roque quoted Duterte saying he will run after the leaders of the NPA, but, when pressed by reporters about the fate of CPP founding chairman Jose Maria Sison, who is in exile in the Netherlands, Roque said he was uncertain about this.
“I do not know what will happen to Joma. I do not know the status of Joma,” said Roque, noting reports that Sison had been granted citizenship by his host country.
HOLIDAY CEASE-FIRE UNLIKELY
Roque said the matter of a possible suspension of military operations (SOMO) between the government and communist rebels – usually called by either side for the Christmas season – was a separate issue and he could not say if one will be called this month.
Roque did note, however, that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had issued a statement that he is not inclined to recommend any SOMO against NPA rebels this Yuletide season.
Lorenzana at the sidelines of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council Yearend Meeting held at the AFP Commissioned Officers’ Club in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City Tuesday.
The DND chief added that he could not recommend a SOMO as the NPA leadership vowed to intensify attacks against military targets in wake of Proclamation 360, issued by President Rodrigo Duterte which terminated peace talks and negotiation with the Communist Party of the Philippines following the series of rebel attacks and atrocities against military and civilian targets nationwide.
The proclamation was signed by the Chief Executive last November 23.
“Because there have been, there was an order by their commanders to intensify operations against us, so kung mag SOMO kami and we will stand down, (if we are to implement SOMO and we will stand down) then they will attack us again,” Lorenzana stressed.
And when asked whether this would constitute a break in tradition, the DND chief said that traditions could always be broken. “We can always break tradition,” the DND chief emphasized.
Duterte had warned the Left two weeks ago he will follow the United States’ example of declaring them a terrorist group after a series of attacks by NPA rebels that, he said, had violated humanitarian law. He was particularly angered by an NPA ambush of a police convoy in Bukidnon province, that injured eight civilians in another vehicle, and killed a four-month-old infant.
For her part, Gabriela partylist Rep. Arlene Brosas said Malacañang’s terror tagging may lead to broader US counter terror operations in the country by opening a broad pretext for unhampered US military intervention.
“It signals possibly worse rights violations against women and the people guised as counter-terror operations,” Rep. Brosas said.
“It should be noted that the newest US-PH joint military drill, Tempest Wind, was conducted under the US war on terror framework. Last week, the US also pushed for increased US-PH counter terror cooperation during the annual bilateral strategic dialogue in Washington.
“We fear extrajudicial killings of suspected rebels and sympathizers will worsen amid recent murders of activists and church people. Last Sunday, Pastor Noveliyo Quinones was killed last Sunday in Mindoro on mere suspicion that he was an NPA. Yesterday, Fr. Tito Paez died in the hospital after being ambushed by gunmen in Nueva Ecija.” – With a PNA Report