BY ROGER M. BALANZA
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said the military campaign against communist rebels is a war without an end, and urged resumption of peace talks between the Philippine government and the leftist National Democratic Front (NDF).
Peace negotiations between the NDF, the political arm of the communist movement in the Philippines, and the Philippine government have been stalled.
Duterte, named recently by President Benigno Aquino as chair of the Davao Region Peace and Order Council, said he is saddened by deaths on both sides of the 45-year conflict as sporadic battles between the two forces continue without let-up.
The Davao Region, along with Caraga Region, have been tagged by military as the hotbed of the communist insurgency.
It breaks my heart to see troopers, policemen and rebels die. They are all Filipinos, he said in his television program Gikan sa Masa Para sa Masa on ABS/CBN-Southern Mindanao.
Duterte has an established contact with NDF leaders and ground commanders of the NPA; takes center stage in release of captured soldiers and policemen. As mayor of Davao City for 23 years, he has a standing compact with the NPA to spare his city from violence.
He said he is helpless against encounters and clashes between the two forces, and has gone to pleading to the NPA not to fire shots in cases that are not “life-and-death situations,” and if an exchange of firepower with military can be avoided.
I have done my part. But we have no choice but to talk, he said addressing both military and the rebels.
The communist New People’s Army (NPA) was all over in the Davao and Caraga regions, including the Bukiidnon province, during the month of July, launching bloody tactical offensives both costly to government forces and the insurgents.
In Caraga on July 15, about “70 NPA rebels attacked the camp of gold-mining tribal leader Calpito ‘Datu Calpit’ Egua in Barangay Sta. Irene, Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur.
The NPA admitted debacle in their simultaneous attack on the gold processing plant and two other targets in Prosperidad and Bayugan towns , with 14 of their fighters killed. Four of Egua’s guards were killed in the attacks. Two soldiers were killed.
Government troopers recovered four M16 and four AK-47 rifles from the NPA.
In Laak, Compostela Valley, the rebels ambushed a military truck of the 25th Infantry Battalion-10th Infantry Division in two separate incidents on July 14. Five troopers were killed according to the NPA.
The attacks were preceded with an NPA raid on July 10 in Alegria Municipal Police Station in Surigao del Norte where the NPAs took as hostage four police officers.
The NPA also admitted to killing Mayor Mario Okinlay of Impasug-ong, Bukidnon last July 2.
On July 8 in Barakatan, Toril Davao City, the NPA’s Mt. Apo Sub-regional Command ambushed a team of the police Special Action Force killing two policemen.
Armed Forces chief General Emmanuel Bautista, in Zamboanga City days before his retirement on July 20, said he is leaving the military service with high hopes that the communist insurgency will finally be defeated.
Bautista said that a large number of provinces have already been freed from the stranglehold of communist rebels.
He credited the military’s Internal Peace and Security Plan, which was drafted under his tutelage as chief of staff, for the “downgrading” of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army.
We are midway into the anti-insurgency campaign (and) we see big improvements in as far as urging the CPP-NPA to abandon its struggle, he said.
Bautista said that in Mindanao, for example, “a lot of communists had surrendered” and this was largely due to the Bayanihan concept, under which the military undertakes development programs in the countryside.
Major General Domingo Tutaan Jr., Armed Forces spokesperson, said the military has “normalized 43” of the 75 provinces where the rebels had a presence.
Military commanders in Mindanao said the NPA continued to carry out offensives but these were just part of its “last acts.”
But Isabel Fermiza, spokesperson of the NPA’s Mt. Apo Sub-regional Command, said the NPA’s successful offensives showed that the insurgency was alive.
“Up to now, the AFP has failed to wipe out any single guerrilla front in Mindanao and to prevent the NPA from forming more fighting and fully-armed platoons. The AFP has failed to stop Red fighters from expanding and consolidating its mass base,” Fermiza said.
The mountains of Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon, Surigao del Norte, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental and Davao City are known hotbeds of the communist movement in the country and are the focus of the military’s counter-insurgency campaign, Capt. Ernest Carolina, spokesperson of the military’s 10th Infantry Division based in Davao City, said. (with Inquirer report)