‘Iloilo not in Mindanao,’ Left tells Abella and Lorenzana

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) gave presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella and defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana a quick lesson in Philippine geography, reminding the two cabinet officials Iloilo is not part of Mindanao.

Following the secretaries’ denunciation of the New People’s Army (NPA) attack of the police station in Maasin, Iloilo last Sunday, the NDFP said Abella and Lorenzana’s statements were “baseless, unfair and unwarranted.”

“First of all, there is no ceasefire in place between the forces of the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) and NDFP in the Visayas and elsewhere in the country. What are in place are recommendatory gestures of goodwill by both Parties to refrain from carrying out offensive operations against each other’s forces in Mindanao,” the NDFP, through its chief peace negotiator Fidel Agcaoili, said in a statement.

“And Maasin, Iloilo is not in Mindanao,” the group added.

While acknowledging the NPA attack in Iloilo is not covered in the reciprocal directives issued by the NDFP and the Rodrigo Duterte government for their respective armed forces to refrain from offensive operations in Mindanao against each other, Abella in a press briefing in Malacañan today said it was nothing but an opportunistic act.

“Although the attack was not in Mindanao, the act was opportunistic in nature and disregards the nature of the NDF declaration,” Abella said.

“We ask the NDF to call on their armed comrades on the ground to walk the talk and to show genuine sincerity on the confidence-building measure initiated by the government and their side,” the presidential spokesperson added.

“Recent events have shown that the upper echelons of the communist movement do not have actual control of NPA units on the ground, which continue to commit atrocities even while their comrades talk peace with the government,” Lorenzana, for his part said in a press statement.

Jesus Dureza, the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, however already clarified yesterday that the NPA raid in Maasin was not covered by the NDFP and GRP declarations.

“Since the latest statements of the National Democratic Front and the government to mutually refrain from taking offensive operations against each other cover only Mindanao, and since there is yet no mutually agreed bilateral ceasefire agreement in place nationwide, the NPA attack in Maasin, Iloilo and elsewhere must be dealt with accordingly and decisively by the AFP and the PNP with the cooperation of civilian agencies and the affected communities,” Dureza said.

Wreaking havoc in Mindanao

The NDFP said it is the Duterte government that does not have full control of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that is wreaking havoc among civilian communities in Mindanao.

“Last Sunday, 18 June, the day of the GRP reciprocal announcement to refrain from conducting offensive operations against the NPA in Mindanao, the AFP publicly announced that their forces had killed four NPA fighters, including an alleged NPA Front Secretary, in three separate military operations conducted by the 67th Infantry Battalion, the 104th Division Reconnaissance Company and the 66th Infantry Battalion in the towns of Cateel and Banaybanay in Davao Oriental and the town of Pantukan in Compostela Valley,” the NDFP said.

The group added that teachers and students of a Lumad school in Kapalong, Davao del Norte, another province in Mindanao, have been prevented from holding classes by the military under the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) and the Alamara paramilitary group yesterday.

The NDFP said EastMinCom and the Alamara threatened to shoot the teachers and students should they return to their communities to attend their school.

“These brazen violations of the GRP’s own pronouncement to refrain from offensive operations against the people and revolutionary forces in Mindanao clearly manifest the need for the GRP to put words into actual deeds and eschew public relations gimmicks in the pursuit of a just and lasting peace in the country through agreements on social, economic and political reforms,” the NDFP said.

The group said it stands by its June 17 statement recommending to the CPP to order all other NPA units in Mindanao to refrain from carrying out offensive operations against the AFP and Philippine National Police to enable all forces to concentrate against terror groups.

“Any suggestions to the contrary or accusations of bad faith are uncalled for, especially at this sensitive time when the two Parties are about to cooperate, in coordination with the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG), in the preparations to resume the 5th round of formal talks, which have been stalled by the martial law declaration in Mindanao,” the NDFP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)