ROME, Italy—The death of two activists and a New People’s Army (NPA) fighter in the Philippines since the ongoing round of formal talks began last January 19 may be the work of peace saboteurs, a human rights group said.
“Are these attacks efforts to sabotage the peace talks?” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay asked in reaction to the killing of peasant leader Alexander Ceballos in Murcia, Negros Occidental and Veronico Lapsay Delamente in Claver, Surigao del Norte last January 20 as well as the military operation that killed an NPA fighter in Makilala, North Cotabato last January 21.
“The killing of Ceballos and Delamente are cases of human rights violations while the military operation in Makilala is a violation of the reciprocal ceasefire agreements,” Palabay said.
Ceballos, a leader of the National Federation of Sugar Workers, was gunned down in his home in Barangay Pandan Silos, Murcia, Negros Occidental by a masked goon reportedly in the employ of former Don Salvador Benedicto town mayor Nehemias dela Cruz.
Delamente, a Mamanwa leader and member of Kahugpungan sa Lumadnong mga Organisasyon (Kasalo), was shot by unknown assailants in Punta Naga, Barangay Cagdianao and later died at a Surigao City hospital. He previously reported receiving death threats because of his anti-mining activities, Kasalo said.
Delamente was also the Katribu Party provincial coordinator since 2010.
In Makilala, 39th Infantry Battallion soldiers of the Philippine Army pursued an NPA unit in Barangay Biangan that resulted in an hour long gunfight and the death of a Red fighter, 33-year old Rojet Ranara.
Eight soldiers were also killed, NPA-Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command Spokesperson Rigoberto Sanchez said.
“The war dogs of the 39th IB and the entire AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) cannot wash their hands clean of this flagrant violation of their own ceasefire. Sitio Lokatong in Barangay Biangan is a remote area that their presence can only mean an offensive operation against the NPA,” Sanchez said.
“They fool no one by claiming that their combat operation was merely in response to reports by local authorities of the presence of lawless groups, for the entire day, they actively maneuvered to engage the evading unit of the NPA,” he added.
Sanchez said the Rodrigo Duterte government should know it is the insincerity of the AFP that is the biggest impediment to the quest for just and lasting peace.
Palabay said the killings and the military operations are attacks on the ongoing peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
“Is the AFP laying the ground for further human rights violations akin to those committed under Oplan Bayanihan? Its Oplan Kapayapaan in its first three weeks is nothing but the same counter-insurgency program that unleashes war against the people and fomenting un-peace,” Palabay said.
Asked for comment, GRP Negotiating Panel chairperson Silvestre Bello III said they still have to receive an official notice from the NDFP.
“We cannot turn a deaf ear to these reports, but such incidents should not negatively affect the peace process,” Bello said.
“In fact, such incidents should compel both parties to accelerate the peace talks to its logical conclusion for a just and lasting peace,” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva/Featured image by Breakaway Media)