By LITO RULONA
RELIGIOUS leaders in the city yesterday expressed worry over President Duterte’s announcement the government would abandon negotiations with the National Democratic Front and that he would issue a proclamation that would categorize the New People’s Army as a terrorist organization.
This would likely aggravate the situation and result in more violence, said Iglesia Filipina Independiente Bishop Felixberto Calang.
Msgr. Rey Monsanto, a consultor of the local Roman Catholic archdiocese, said he feared the NPA would resort to guerrilla warfare in urban centers, and innocent civilians could end up being caught in the crossfires.
Bishop Calang told local radio Duterte’s warning would intensify the communist armed struggle and military offensives.
“Dili kini makaayo tungod kay mosamot nga modaghan ang opensiba sa mga rebelde og counter-offensive sa mga sundalo,” he said.
Calang said he is convinced that peace negotiation is still the way to go.
He said Duterte’s pronouncements over the weekend tend to further hurt the prospects of peace talks and a settlement between the government and the NDF.
Duterte’s stinging pronouncements against the NPA came as a reaction to the death of a a four-month-old baby during the Nov. 9 ambush it carried out against a police convoy in Talakag, Bukidnon in Nov. 9.
Calang said Duterte’s reaction was “normal” given the public outrage over the killing of an infant.
The NPA has apologized for the infant’s death and the wounding of civilians during the ambush, saying it was “unforseen,” even as it said it would indemnify the victims’ families.
Calang said he was still optimistic that the peace negotiations between the government and NDF would be pursued.
“The talks between the two panels are still the best option to achieve peace,” he said.
Msgr. Monsanto, for his part, said he was worried about the prospects of a government crackdown on groups and activists being associated to the NDF and NPA.
“Dili unta niya i-apil ang CPP-NDF apan kadto lamang ang armed group,” said he said.
Monsanto called on the Duterte administration not to rush decisions and to carefully study and assess its moves.
“Kinahanglan nga estudyohan pag-ayo sa atong gobyerno kung kinsa ang affected,” he said.
Monsanto said he feared that rebels would bring their struggle to urban centers as they would likely intermigle with civilians.
“Uban-uban ra ba kini sila sa mga civilian. Daghan ang affected ani,” Monsanto said.
In Davao on Saturday, said he wanted the NPA categorized as a terrorist group because rebellion is just a light offense based on the country’s laws.
Duterte noted that the US State Department tagged the NPA as a terrorist organization over a decade ago.
He said he was no longer interested on pursuing the peace talks with the NDF, adding that its members were no longer “legitimate rebels” given their extortion activities and attacks against innocent people, citing the Talakag ambush that killed infant Walysha Machorao.
Duterte said the attack was intentional. “You know when you fire at government vehicles or anyone for that matter, any — somebody else’s vehicle, that’s already danger. It’s a malicious act. There is the intent to kill. That’s why it’s an ambush. Therefore, according to law, you are responsible for all the unintended pati (including) intended victims. There is pure malice there… criminal intent.”
The 5th round of formal peace negotiations between government and the communists supposedly in the Netherlands in May 2017, was called off. Both parties were supposed to discuss the Comprehensive Agreement Social Economic Reforms. (with reports from Mindanews)