MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday urged the military and the police to use all their assets in the war against communist rebels following the killing of four policemen allegedly by the New People's Army (NPA).
“Wala pang peace talks. It’s totally absent. So, in the meantime, I will also ask the Armed Forces to go ahead and wage a war against them. I’ll allow police and military to use all available assets,” Duterte told reporters in Davao del Sur.
“I’m sorry this gory incident [ambush] had to happen. But I can assure everybody that the Armed Forces and the PNP [Philippine National Police] would respond. This time, I’m using everything. I’ve encouraged the police to call in the air assets.”
The alleged ambush occurred yesterday in Bansalan, Davao del Sur.
The policemen were reportedly responding to a report from a barangay official that a murder happened in the area, when they were attacked by suspected members of the communist NPA.
Killed in action were PO1 Rolly Benelayo, PO1 Joe Narvaza, PO1 Saro Mangutara, all members of Bansalan Municipal Police Station, and PO3 Jayden May Rabor, a member of the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) in Digos City.
The ambush occurred just as the government and the communist rebels were to hold backchannel talks on resuming formal peace negotiations.
Repeated clashes between communist rebels and government troops prompted Duterte to cancel the peace talks. Duterte's decision not to release around 400 political prisoners was also blamed for the collapse of the talks.
The backchannel talks have given hope that the two sides will soon return to the negotiating table.
Duterte, however, said that before negotiations can resume, communist rebels must cease from attacking government troops and stop collecting so-called revolutionary taxes.
Malacañang earlier said the ambush will have an effect on efforts to revive peace talks with the Left.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said, leftist leaders should be able to control their people on the ground.
"In other words that they should also cease action, that they should in fact take it upon themselves to be responsible for their own people, and also to release prisoners. So this is part of the expectations of the President regarding the matter. How it would affect? It would provide some sort of influence, however there is the bigger thing which is the pursuit of peace,” Abella said in a news conference.
"I cannot quantify but I am sure quality wise it will influence, it will influence the talks… I suppose the conversation will be that… should be firmer, firmer action from the CNN (CPP NPA NDF) side, on the people on the ground."