Philippines ends ceasefire with rebels, troops told to prepare for war
DAVAO CITY – Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday terminated the government’s unilateral ceasefire with communist insurgents following a series of deadly attacks that threatened the ongoing peace talks with rebels.
Duterte’s decision came two days after the New People’s Army abruptly ended its ceasefire after accusing the president of reneging on his promise to free at least 400 political prisoners, mostly rebel leaders and their members, languishing in jails across the country.
The NPA had already killed at least 4 soldiers and seized three more as rebels resume attacks on government forces immediately after announcing the end of its truce on February 1.
Duterte said he cannot free all political prisoners and claimed that such action may trigger unrest in the police and military.
He said he had already released some rebel leaders so they can join the peace talks, but freeing all prisoners is out of the question, not until both sides reach an agreement that will put an end to decades of bloody fighting.
Duterte ordered security forces to prepare for war even as government peace negotiators tried in vain to normalize the volatile situation.
On Thursday, rebels seized 2 army soldiers at a roadblock in Columbio town in Sultan Kudarat province in southern Philippines. Security officials did not release the identities of the soldiers, but said they are members of the 39th Infantry Battalion and were travelling on a motorcycle when rebels stopped them in the village of Telefas.
The capture of the infantrymen occurred just a day after rebels also seized 3 soldiers and killed them in the village of Manalog in Malaybalay City in Bukidnon province. The trio were belonged to the 8th Infantry Battalion, according to the army.
The soldiers, whose names were withheld by the military, said the victims were on their way to collect their allowance when rebels capture them. Insurgents also killed Lt. Miguel Victor Alejo and wounded Pvt. Peter Sumatin in an ambush on Wednesday in the town called Manay in Davao Oriental province also in southern Philippines.
According to the Eastern Mindanao Command, the soldiers belong to the 67th Infantry Battalion and had been sent to the town to help the local police pursue rebels who were allegedly extorting money from villagers. Alejo was a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 2015. Rebel forces are fighting for the establishment of a separate Maoist state in the country. (Mindanao Examiner)