After N. Cotabato clash, NPA doubts if peace panel, Duterte in control of AFP

Jan. 30, 2017 | MART D. SAMBALUD |

DAVAO CITY, Philippines—A spokesperson of the Regional Operations Command of the New People’s Army in Southern Mindanao expressed doubt if President Rodrigo Duterte and the government peace panel are really in control of the Armed Forces of the Philippines following the AFP-NPA skirmish in Makilala, North Cotabato.

“The revolutionary forces are wondering whether the GPH panel, and indeed Pres. Duterte, have either the control of their armed forces to effectively implement its proposed bilateral ceasefire or the political resolve to investigate and punish the insidious saboteurs to the peace process,” NPA spokesperson Rigoberto Sanchez said in a statement Monday.

NPA said that at least 100 state security and law enforcement forces were deployed in Matalam town and continued to militarize the civilian communities.

“A bilateral ceasefire agreement would be pointless in the face of relentless and outright attack operations by AFP and PNP troops against units of the NPA,” he said.

According to Sanchez, combined elements of the Army’s 71st Infantry Battalion, paramilitary group and the PNP’s Special Action Force launched an offensive operation on Jan.26 in Sitio Emilda, Baranngay Taguranao, Matalam, North Cotabato.

He said that around 6 a.m, at least 50 government troops assaulted an NPA unit in its guerrilla camp some three kilometers away from the community. Sanchez said the NPAs safely withdrew from the clash site leaving three troops from the government killed in a 45-minute firefight.

“This reality of the AFP and PNP’s outright non-compliance alarmingly puts the commitment of the GRP in the peace process into serious question,” the NPA spokesperson said.

The government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines has recently concluded the third round of talks in Rome, Italy last Jan. 25.

Another meeting between the peace panels will be held next month while the formal round of talks is scheduled in April. (