AFP solidly behind Duterte’s decision to suspend talks with rebels

MANILA-- Solid like a rock.

This was the sentiment of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as it lauded President Rodrigo Duterte's decision to suspend back-channel talks with the New People's Army (NPA) until the rebels agree to terminate their extortion rackets and unprovoked attacks on military units.

"We say we welcome the pronouncement of the Commander-in-Chief, indeed it is a futile effort to continue to talk peace with the group like CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front), those members continue to bleed money from the people and senselessly kill our soldiers that defend and protect our people," said military public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo on Thursday.

The suspension of back-channel talks came in wake of the rebels attacks against Marine units in Palawan, killing two and wounding another, and an encounter with Presidential Security Group (PSG) personnel in North Cotabato which left four personnel wounded-in-action, in a span of 48 hours.

"The citizenry know very well that the AFP has been (very) open and very supportive in government effort in all its projects yearning to achieve lasting peace and spur development in the countryside, but with the recent developments two of them happening in Palawan, where they liquidated two unarmed Marines in civilian clothes and were just doing marketing and in the other instance they blew up improvised explosive device targeting a truck with Marines who are only transiting enroute to a peace and development efforts, thereby injuring the troops on board," Arevalo added.

"(And) there was also this incident of attack on the vehicles belonging to the PSG by NPAs clad in Army uniforms who put up a fake checkpoint in Arakan in North Cotabato. You can just imagine that if the President is onboard that vehicle, he could have been assassinated," the AFP public official pointed out.

Also, the clash with the PSG is uncalled for as the latter unit was not tasked or mandated to conduct combat operations against the rebels.

He said these attacks are indicators of the NPAs propensity to take advantage of crucial situations like this in order for them to perpetuate their ends.

It also shows that the rebels have never been really sincere in talking peace with the government, Arevalo added.

"They have never been sincere in talking peace with government. Clearly, the NPAs have no intention to genuinely pursue peace negotiations but merely to buy time to consolidate to recruit and to beef up their ranks," the military official pointed out.

Since the Feb. 4 termination of peace talks with the NPA, around 403 rebels have been neutralized by government forces with 91 killed, 40 arrested, and another 272 who voluntarily surrendered, 129 wounded and firearms recovered at 194.

Government troops killed amounted to 42, wounded 129, while civilian casualties are placed at 14 killed, six kidnapped, 11 wounded.

Around 203 encounters and 175 NPA atrocities have taken place during that time.

"The armed forces have been supporting, is supporting and will continue to support the President," Arevalo stressed.

Source: Philippines News Agency