MANILA - The New People's Army (NPA) on Thursday said it remained committed to peace talks with the government but it will prepare for increased hostilities with state troops after President Rodrigo Duterte said he no longer wanted to talk with communist rebels.
"Ang NPA, kasama ang NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines), ay naniniwala na malulutas pa rin sa pamamagitan ng peace talks kung ang gobyerno ni Duterte ay uupo at hindi magiging balat-kamatis, ika nga, na kaunting hindi pagkakaunawaan, tatakutin na iaatras," NPA Southern Tagalog spokesperson Jaime "Ka Diego" Padilla said in a phone interview with ABS-CBN News.
(The NPA, together with the NDFP still believes that peace talks may still materialize if the Duterte government will sit down, stop being sensitive and refrain from threatening to withdraw from the negotiations just because of minor misunderstandings.)
"Kung ayaw nila ng peace talk, ay ano [ang] aming magagawa, kundi kami ay maghanda ng anumang ginagawa nilang pag-atake sa mga mamamayan."
(But if they no longer want to engage in peace talks, what else can we do but prepare for increased attacks on citizens.)
Earlier Thursday, Duterte scorned peace talks and noted the death of security forces in a string of NPA attacks.
A militiaman was killed while 4 officers of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) were wounded in an NPA ambush in Arakan, North Cotobato on Wednesday. NPA rebels in Palawan province also gunned down 2 members of the Philippine Marines Wednesday and bombed a military truck the day before.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella however clarified that the government has not formally terminated the talks despite Duterte's pronouncements.
NPA's Padilla also insisted that rebels only mounted the attacks to defend themselves from military offensives.
"Kung sila (Armed Forces) ay hindi pumapasok ng aming teritoryo at naghahasik ng terorismo sa mamamayan, hindi sila makakaranas ng atake sa Bagong Hukbong Bayan," said Ka Diego.
(If soldiers did not invade our territory and terrorized citizens, they would not have been under attack.)
Padilla also maintained that the NPA would not surrender its arms nor stop collecting revolutionary taxes -- even if these become conditions for the resumption of peace negotiations.
"Hindi kami naniningil ng taxes sa mga basic masses natin...kung hindi ang mga kaaway sa uri, mga dambuhalang namamahala ng korporasyon, minahan na sumisira ng kalikasan natin at sumisira ng kalupaan natin," he reasoned.
"Iyun ang pinarurusahan at pinipilit natin sila pagbayarin ng buwis upang maibalik sa mamamayan ang kanilang pinipinsala."
(We do not collect taxes from the masses, but from giant corporations and mining companies that destroy the environment. We punish them and force them to pay taxes so that affected citizens may be compensated.)
The NPA leader also urged Duterte to dismiss former military officials from his Cabinet, whom he tagged as a hindrance to the peace process. -- With Carolyn Bonquin, ABS-CBN News