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NPA kills 5 soldiers amid truce

A day after the government announced a unilateral suspension of military operations against the communist rebels, the New People’s Army ambushed Army troops out to conduct peace and developmental mission in Surigao del Sur provinces.

The attack killed 5 soldiers while two others were wounded.

Reports quoted Major Eugenio Julio Osias IV, spokesman of the 4th Infantry Division as saying that heavily armed NPA rebels in Barangay Mabuhay in Tandag City assaulted elements of the 36th Infantry Battalion around 5 a.m. Friday (December 16).

The rebels took away one K3 squad automatic weapon, one M203, four M16 rifles, five M14 rifles, one Harris handheld radio, and one Harris man-packed radio.

Maj. Gen. Victor Felix, 4th ID commanding general, condemned the attack, which happened hours after the government’s unilateral Somo against the NPA took effect.

“We strongly condemn this treacherous act of the NPA against our soldiers even after the AFP’s declaration of a temporary ceasefire that shall start today until after New Year’s Day,” Felix said.

“I already ordered all the commanders in the area to conduct an immediate pursuit operation against these criminals in accordance with the law enforcement operation as authorized. Our soldiers’ death shall not be in vain,” Felix added.

Meanwhile, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) dismissed the 18-day Somo declared by President Aquino on Thursday as a sham as it hinted its non-reciprocation of the government’s unilateral ceasefire for the observance of Yuletide Season.

The CPP noted that the military continued to conduct operations under internal peace and security plan “Bayanihan” despite the Somo.

“Aquino’s ceasefire declaration will come to nothing because the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) persists on committing abuses and violating human rights as they conduct their so-called civil-military and intelligence-gathering operations within civilian communities,” the CPP said.

“The CPP reiterated that for the people, there is no sense in the AFP’s declaration of a ceasefire if military units continue to set up camps and detachments within schools and civilian communities, taunt and force the people to follow the AFP’s guardia-civil policies, harass and prevent them from working in their fields and earning their keep,” it added.

Meanwhile, the Palace said the communist New People’s Army (NPA) should reciprocate the government’s declaration of the Somo by also declaring a Christmas ceasefire “in the spirit of the Yuletide Season.”

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the unilateral ceasefire with the communists demonstrates the administration’s sincerity in pursuing peace in the country.

“It shows our sincerity for the pursuit of peace. However it doesn’t stop us from defending ourselves. If the soldiers are attacked they will defend themselves. This is a declaration of ceasefire and we would expect in the spirit of the season for the other side to also declare a ceasefire to allow the rebels to be with their families at this time,” Lacierda said.

Upon recommendations from both the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and the Department of National Defense, the President earlier declared a ceasefire that took effect yesterday, Dec. 16 and will end on Jan. 2 next year.

Under the Somo, the military will suspend its offensive operations for the period covered by the ceasefire and will be on the defensive mode, responding only if provoked.

SecurityMatters has said that the communist rebels appear not ready to engage in peace negotiations with the government. The rebel group has been engaging in heightened acts of violence for the past months, which include an attack on three mining sites in Surigao del Norte, among many.

The latest attack is a direct affront to the government efforts to engage in peace talks. SecurityMatters has said that the attacks undertaken by the rebels undermine the ongoing peace negotiations. Unless the communist rebels stop its offensive and start to show sincerity, the peace talks appear to stay stalled for quite some time.