MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is not going to be cowed by Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison’s threat to have the New People’s Army (NPA) kill one soldier a day to force the government to resume peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front (NDF).
“To live in constant danger is part of the sworn duty of every serviceman. With or without threat to the lives of our soldiers, our troops will be there for our people in the communities where they are most needed,” military spokesman Col. Edgard Arevalo said yesterday.
“Such threat by Joma only shows the true color of the CPP-NPA, (but) that will not diminish our resolve to further enhance our services,” he added.
Arevalo said the AFP would continue to do its mandate of serving and protecting the people from NPA rebels, now considered terrorists by the government.
For his part, Lt. Col. Louie Villanueva, spokesman for the Philippine Army, said soldiers always abide by the provision of human rights.
“What we are promoting is peace. We are not after waging war against (terrorists). We want to offer (them peaceful resolution),” Villanueva stressed.
Sison, in a statement, denounced the recent arrest of NDF consultants like Rafael Baylosis who, according to him, are protected by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).
As its chief political consultant, Sison advised the NDF to recommend to the CPP and NPA to respect the JASIG as a solemn agreement that protects the negotiating personnel of both the NDF and the government.
“It is good to keep open the possibility of resuming the peace negotiations rather than violate the JASIG and undermine confidence in the peace process,” Sison said.
What the NPA can do, Sison added, to persuade the government to resume the negotiations is to carry out the CPP’s tactical offensives against armed units of the AFP, Philippine National Police and auxiliary forces and to punish human rights violators, local tyrants, land grabbers, drug lords and other notorious criminals.
The AFP, on the other hand, believes that the NPA is weakened by combat military operations and efforts to educate the people of the false promises that the communist movement gives.
One proof of the rebel group’s diminishing capability, the military claimed, was the surrender of 326 self-confessed members of the rebel group last month.
The NPA has no basis to arrest government negotiators, Malacañang said yesterday, after a lawmaker warned that the capture of communist consultants could prod the rebels to retaliate.
Anakpawis party-list Rep. Ariel Casilao has warned that the arrest of NDF consultants could prompt the NPA to capture members of the government negotiating panel.
Casilao made the remark days after government forces arrested NDF consultant Baylosis and his companion Guillermo Roque in Quezon City, the first communists to be nabbed since President Duterte classified the NPA and the CPP as terrorist groups.
But presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the NPA rebels would commit a criminal act or a war crime if they seize government negotiators.
“That will be a crime; that would be kidnapping, if not, a violation also of (international humanitarian law) because combatants will be apprehending innocent civilians. The peace negotiators are not combatants. I underscore that fact, and they’re not facing any arrest warrants,” Roque said in a press briefing.
Roque said Baylosis’ arrest was pursuant to a lawful arrest order.
“He will have to defend himself in court as required by law, and he will have to prove that he is innocent of the criminal charges lodged against him,” the spokesman said. – Alexis Romero