COMMUNIST rebels threatened to call off the peace talks if the government fails to release 22 jailed consultants of the National Democratic Front, adding that they will only declare an interim ceasefire if the Duterte administration declares a general amnesty.
National Democratic Front chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni and Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison made the declarations in a video conference from Utrecht in The Netherlands as government troops clashed with communist rebels in Mindanao.
At least five soldiers and two rebels were killed in separate battles in Bukidnon and Compostela Valley on Friday.
Twelve soldiers and two rebels were also wounded in the gunfights while three New People’s Army rebels were also captured in the fierce fighting, said military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla.
“As of now, both sides we will continue the peace talks [set for August 20],” National Democratic Front chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni said in a video conference from Utretch in The Netherlands.
“But if the releases of the 22 people will not be realized for some reason or the GPH side will put up complicated requirements, the NDF together with its consultants will postpone again the resumption of peace talks to accomplish the releases,” Jalandoni said.
At the same time, CPP founder Jose Maria Sison said the Communist Party of the Philippines will only declare an interim ceasefire if the Duterte administration declares a general amnesty for all political prisoners.
“My confidence in the Duterte administration will only rise when it honors the agreement,” Sison said. “For all planned political prsioners to be released under a general amnesty proclamation in exchange of an interim ceasefire... pending a comprehensive agreement on the end of hostilities.”
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello on Saturday said they are working to give safety conduct passes to 22 NDF consultants in the peace talks.
Sison said that while it is not a condition in the resumption of the peace talks “that there should be a ceasefire,” an interim ceasefire for both could be declared “following the release of political prisoners and the resumption of formal peace negotiations.”
In the same video conference, Sison stressed that for the government to prove its sincerity about the peace talks, they should be able to propose an amenable comprehensive agreement on social and economic reforms to be discussed by both panels in Oslo.
“The best way to prove sincerity is to act for the benefit of the people. [The government] has come to terms with the proposed comprehensive social and economic reforms...[CASER]...People have democratic rights,” Sison said.
“As for the line which tasks the CPP-NPA-NDFP to prove its sincerity by ending the armed struggle, you cannot have peace talks where there is no armed struggle,” Sison said.
“The armed revolution is the not the cause, the resistance of the people is the result of oppression and exploitation. We must assert our own national and democratic rights and promote them inside and out of the peace negotiations,” he added.
Sison said he will no longer reply to the taunting of the ill-tempered Duterte.
“I’ll let it pass I cannot answer a comment that comes from an angry person. I would rather talk with President Duterte personally or behind closed doors about the substantive agenda of peace talks in order to push it forward. I have a high level of tolerance,” he said.
But fighting was fierce at Monkayo and Marusagan towns that resulted in the death of four soldiers, Padilla said, adding that army troops were able to recover several high-powered firearms from the rebels.
Padilla said the hostilities initially erupted Thursday afternoon at Kilometer 56 in Barangay Rizal in Monkayo leaving an army soldier killed and two others wounded.
After a lull, fighting resumed the following with pursuing army troops from the 25th Infantry Battalion interdicting around 60 fully armed rebels in the same spot.
In that encounter, three soldiers were killed by an improvised explosive device while nine others were wounded.
As the troops overwhelmed the insurgents and eventually cornered them, the rebel band withdrew leaving one of their comrade dead while three others wounded.
Hours later, fighting erupted anew after elements of the 71st Infantry Battallion caught up a 30-man rebel band at the vicinity of Barangay Parasanon leaving a soldier and a rebel killed.
“One of our soldiers was killed in action while scores from the enemy side were also believed to have been killed or wounded,” Padilla said.
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