MANILA, Philippines – Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza on Monday expressed disappointment over the New People (NPA)’s Army assault on the Maasin Police Station in Iloilo at a time when communist rebels offered a cease-fire in Mindanao to enable government forces to focus on fighting ISIS-linked extremists in Marawi City.
“(I)t is disheartening to note that such attacks provide a negative impact in our mutual commitment with the NDF (National Democratic Front) to provide that enabling environment conducive to the continuation of peace negotiations with them,” Dureza said in a statement.
The NPA raid on the station took place on Sunday, June 18. Iloilo Police Provincial Office spokesperson Police Chief Inspector Aaron Palomo earlier told the government-run Philippine News Agency that about 50 NPA rebels took an undetermined number of firearms from the authorities on duty. He said the policemen were neither harassed nor harmed and were only handcuffed by the rebels.
The attack happened immediately after the Philippine Army’s 82nd Infantry Battalion stationed in Panay was redeployed to Lanao del Sur to reinforce government troops fighting with Maute-led forces in Marawi City.
Dureza said the “impact” of the NPA attack in Iloilo “is not just on the peace negotiations” but also “illustrates the tragedy of the insurgency.”
“Hopefully, the attack is just part of the birth pains of the agreement to stop offensive military actions, even if it covers only Mindanao as of now. It is an argument for a nation-wide ceasefire,” the peace adviser said.
Since the NDF and the government’s latest statements to mutually refrain from taking offensive operations against each other cover only Mindanao and there is yet no mutually agreed bilateral ceasefire agreement in place nationwide, Dureza said the NPA attack in Maasin and elsewhere “must be dealt with accordingly and decisively” by the police and the military “with the cooperation of civilian agencies and the affected communities.”