Tuesday, August 25, 2009

NPA rebels ambush army patrol in Surigao province

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / August 25, 2009) – Communist rebels in the southern Philippines ambushed an army patrol and killed one soldier in the attack staged on Tuesday, reports said.

New People’s Army rebels opened fire on the soldiers on a village in the town of Lianga in Surigao del Sur province, a known stronghold of the communist group which is fighting for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country the past four decades.

There was no report of casualties on the part of the NPA and army officials said one infantryman added to the long list of those killed by rebels since early this year.

The attack occurred days after the NPA accused Manila of reneging on a deal to free more than a dozen political detainees, including rebel leaders accused of murder and rebellion, as a condition for the resumption of the stalled peace talks.

Peace negotiations between the Arroyo government and the communist rebels collapsed in 2004 after the NPA accused Manila of failing to honor several agreements they forged, among them the release of dozens of captured guerrillas and political prisoners.

The presidential peace adviser, Avelino Razon, said the National Democratic Front, the political wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines, has virtually abandoned the peace talks.

He said the NDF is demanding the government to drop all criminal charges against two senior CPP leaders - Rafael Baylosis and Vicente Ladlad – so they can join the peace talks.

But both men refused to surface despite a government guarantee that they will not be arrested. Two other arrested rebel leaders - Randall Echanis and Elizabeth Principe – had been released by the government.

“We regret the virtual decision of the National Democratic Front to abandon the peace negotiations table. It is unfortunate that the NDF has easily and quickly belittled the efforts of the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) to pursue confidence building measures such as the lifting of the suspension of the JASIG (Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee), which led to the release from detention of two of its alleged consultants, Randall Echanis and Elizabeth Principe,” Razon said in a statement posted Tuesday on a government website which can be accessed on this URL: http://www.opapp.gov.ph.

“The refusal of Rafael Baylosis and Vicente Ladlad to surface despite the JASIG is entirely their personal decision. But for the NDF to ask the GRP to withdraw charges of multiple murders against them because the NDF thinks the charges are false or trumped up, and dictate on the judicial and administrative mechanisms that government must take to deliver their consultants to them in Utrecht are clear modes of conflict escalation to prevent the resumption of the talks,” he said, adding, the infighting among rebel leaders have affected the peace process and that the NPA is only using the peace talks to advance its armed struggle.

“This is clear indication that the debate within the CPP-NPA-NDF has turned in favor of simply using the peace process as a tool in advancing its armed struggle agenda,” Razon said.

He said the government has bent backwards to make space for peace. “But it cannot violate or short circuit the operative justice system to save the NDF’s consultants from being answerable for the crimes they are accused of. This is a blatant abuse of the peace table to get concessions they cannot get anywhere else,” he said.

“As expected, the NDF is already cooking up on excuse to end peace talks and blame the government for it. This propaganda line will surely be played up for their intended local and international audience to further CPP-NPA-NDF support,” Razon added.

The NDF said Razon was lying when he claimed that Echanis and Principe have been released in compliance with the JASIG.

“Principe was released by virtue of her legal victories in court and the military even tried to block her release. The conditional release of Echanis for six months is a violation of JASIG and not in compliance with it. The sham safe conduct passes issued in the cases of Rafael Baylosis and Vicente Ladlad incriminate and convict them, serve as their death warrant and are a brazen violation of the JASIG,” said Marissa Palo, of the NDF. (Mindanao Examiner)

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