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MANILA, Philippines – Military offensive against the communist New People’s Army (NPA) will continue pending formal orders from Malacañang, according to Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Public Affairs Office chief Lieutenant Colonel Edgrad Arevalo.
“The AFP’s conduct of combat operations continue until suspended. We are yet to receive an official communication from the Office of the President that will have the force and effect of restoration of the SOMO (Suspension of Military Offensive),” Arevalo said in a statement on Monday, March 13.
Negotiators of the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) on Saturday, March 11, signed a joint statement agreeing to resume the peace process about a month after it collapsed.
The two parties gave themselves until the 1st week of April, when they are scheduled to hold the 4th round of talks, to reinstate the ceasefire between the AFP and the NPA. Separate unilateral ceasefire declarations are expected, pending agreement on a more stable joint ceasefire deal that will put in place common rules for the AFP and the NPA.
Chief presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza said the ground forces have to be “adequately informed” before the military reinstates a unilateral ceasefire.
The military claimed to have neutralized 120 NPA combatants since the ceasefire broke down in February. Arevalo said 21 were killed, 18 were captured, while 81 reportedly surrendered.
The military is accused by leftist lawmakers of committing human rights violations in its all-out-war against the NPA.
Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao urged President Rodrigo Duterte to call off orders to bomb communities in pursuit of NPA guerrillas.
“It is apparent that the president continue to heed the call for the resumption of the talks. Hence, we take advantage of this opportunity to demand respect of human rights, especially of non-combatants, against violations such as aerial bombings and military occupation of their communities,” Casilao said in a statement. – Rappler.com