MANILA – Hours after President Rodrigo Duterte warned he may impose martial law should the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) continue attacks on state troops soldiers, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) hit back at the President, calling his threat a "classic deflection tactic."
“Stop using the NPA to deflect attention from your failures,” the CPP said in a statement.
In a speech taped Thursday but televised Friday morning, Duterte raised the possibility of declaring martial law following reports that communist rebels attacked government troops delivering aid and food.
In response, the CPP posted a statement on its website Friday calling Duterte’s statement a “cover-up” for government’s failures.
“This is a classic deflection tactic to draw away the people’s attention from the government’s inept, incompassionate and irresponsible actions in the fact of the pandemic,” it said, referring to the spread of the coronavirus disease.
It blamed the Philippine government for its “military-minded response and failure to conduct mass testing.”
It also accused the President of using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to declare martial law, which, it warned, could only cause greater hardships on the people.
“Duterte wants to kill democracy, at a time when democracy is needed to mobilize the people in a mass campaign of screening and testing to detect and isolate the virus and break its chain of transmission,” the CPP said.
The CPP also criticized the extension of the lockdown in some areas and its expansion as “general” or “modified” community quarantine in different parts of Visayas and Mindanao.
The Luzon-wide lockdown was supposed to end on April 30, but the President decided to extend it until May 15 in areas where coronavirus cases remain high.
“There is now creeping nationwide martial law and the entire country is now effectively under the highhanded…control of the military and police,” it warned.
Several clashes have been reported between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the NPA in recent days. .
The Commission on Human Rights said it was investigating incidents in Eastern Samar, Surigao del Sur, Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Masbate and Aurora, which all took place between April 14 and April 21, during which a ceasefire was declared by the CPP because of the pandemic..
The Philippine government declared a ceasefire from March 19 to April 15 but has yet to reciprocate CPP’s extension of the ceasefire until April 30, the end of the Luzon-wide lockdown.
The latest attack took place in Victorias, Negros Occidental Friday where 2 soldiers were wounded in a gunfight with suspected communist rebels.
“It is unfortunate that, instead of channeling collective efforts in addressing the pandemic and extending help to communities most affected, initiatives are hampered with a series of cruelties triggered by armed conflict. These violence dilute the meaning of the ceasefire declarations and render them irrelevant in the communities, which are supposed to benefit most from the truce,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said in a statement.
“We continue to call on both sides to respect their truce declarations and truly serve the people by not putting them in further danger in this time of COVID-19 pandemic,” she added.
But the CPP blamed the AFP for the clashes, saying the NPA rebels were just defending themselves. It claimed the AFP stepped up its counterinsurgency operations since Duterte’s ceasefire lapsed on April 15 and never stopped deploying troops during the government’s ceasefire, mounting at least 24 offensives and 6 aerial bombardments.
“Sugod kasi ng sugod ang AFP. Utos ni Duterte eh. Pinambabala sa kanyon ang mga sundalo niya. Siyempre, NPA is alert and ready to defend themselves,” Marco Valbuena, CPP information officer said in a statement.
(The AFP keeps on attacking. It's Duterte's orders. He is sending his soldiers as ammunition. Of course the NPA is alert and ready to defend themselves.)
The CPP also hit the AFP for allegedly using relief work as cover for combat operations.
“The AFP’s pretend and ‘pang-press release’ relief work serve only as cover for their intensified counter-insurgency operations. Across the country, the AFP is imposing martial law on communities and forcing people to ‘surrender,’ bringing great hardship and oppression more than the threat of COVID-19,” it said.
AFP: REBEL ATTACKS INFURIATED DUTERTE
The AFP rejected the CPP’s allegations and expressed support for the President in his call for the NPA to stop its alleged extortion activities and attacks on civilian leaders, communities and soliders and policemen not involved in combat operations.
It also justified the President’s threat to impose martial law.
“The President is genuinely concerned for the welfare of the common Filipino, the assistance for whom are being robbed by terrorists NPA. He was also enraged by the NPA’s senseless killing of soldiers assisting in the distribution of relief goods and other social amelioration program,” AFP spokersperson Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said in a statement.
“These, among other atrocities committed by this terrorist group CPP-NPA during this crisis, have infuriated the Commander-in-Chief. They prompted him to threaten to declare martial law if these opportunist terrorists will continue to commit their inhumane and criminal acts at this time that we are fighting a pandemic,” he added.
Arevalo assured the public that in the event martial law is declared and the AFP is tasked to implement it, the AFP will follow the law and the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights.
“We have the wealth of experience and lessons learned in the enforcement of ML (martial law) in Mindanao. We will capitalize on it,” he said, referring to military rule to quell terrorism in Mindanao.
The AFP, meanwhile, announced that it was coming up with new techniques, tactics and procedures to prevent further attacks on government troops supposedly coming from the NPA.