Gov’t slams ‘opportunistic’ NPA attack in Iloilo

MANILA-- The government on Monday slammed the New People's Army (NPA) for its 'attack of a police station in Iloilo over the weekend as it called the act as both "opportunistic and intentional".

At a press briefing in MalacaAang, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the "ill-timed" and "unfortunate" attack happened just as the government decided to cease offensive operations against the NPA in response to a similar action from the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

On Sunday, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Silvestre Bello III said government forces will cease its offensive operations against the New People's Army (NPA) to reciprocate the NDFP's declaration to refrain from undertaking offensive operations in Mindanao.

However, on the same day, around 50 armed men believed to be members of the NPA raided the Maasin municipal police station, reportedly taking 11 M-16 rifles, four pistols, ammunition, and VHF radios.

"It was unfortunate that the NPA raid of a police station in Iloilo happened on the same day the government reciprocated the National Democratic Front's declaration to refrain from undertaking offensive operations in Mindanao," Abella said.

"Although the attack was not in Mindanao, the act was opportunistic in nature and disregards the nature of the NDF declaration," the Palace spokesman said.

His sentiments were echoed by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr. who said the NPA took advantage of the security situation in Iloilo.

"One of the reasons they did the attack in Maasin, we know, is because many of our troops went to help in Mindanao. So when the forces were spread thin, they knew that they can do this, they took advantage. That's why we say it's very opportunistic on their part," Padilla said.

The military official likewise downplayed the NPA statement saying rebels targeted the Maasin police station due to the alleged unscrupulous actions of it personnel.

"Panis na 'yung excuse na 'yon. Huwag niyo nang pinapatulan. They do this intentionally because their objective is to get more arms. We shouldn't believe their excuses, there is always a pretense of their real motive," Padilla said.

In the meantime, Abella urged the NDF to restrain their armed comrades and show genuine sincerity.

"We ask the NDF to call on their armed comrades on the ground to walk the talk and to show genuine sincerity on the confidence-building measure initiated by the government and their side," he said.

Quoting Presidential Peace Adviser Jess Dureza, Abella reminded that the reciprocal action to halt offensive actions, even if it is only in Mindanao, "is an argument for a nationwide ceasefire."

"Since the latest statements of the National Democratic Front and the government to mutually refrain from taking offensive operations against each other cover only Mindanao, and since there is yet no mutually agreed bilateral ceasefire agreement in place nationwide, the NPA attack in Maasin, Iloilo and elsewhere must be dealt with accordingly and decisively by the AFP and the PNP with the cooperation of civilian agencies and the affected communities," Dureza's statement said.

"Having said this, it's important to note that such attacks provide a negative impact in our mutual commitment with the NDF to provide the enabling environment conducive to the continuation of peace negotiations with them," he said.

"The impact is not just on the peace negotiations, it illustrates the tragedy of the insurgency. Hopefully, the attack is just part of the birth pains of the agreement to stop offensive military actions, even if it covers only Mindanao as of now. It is an argument for nationwide ceasefire," Dureza said.

Source: Philippines News Agency