DAVAO CITY—The Armed Forces of the Philippines on Thursday denied any massive military deployment in the Caraga region.
Philippine Army Commanding General Eduardo Aṅo said the deployment of troops in Caraga is related to the Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan of the AFP.
“There is no such thing as massive deployment in Caraga. We are just crafting our next IPSP Bayanihan campaign plan. We are just continuing what we have started, especially the Bayaniha team activities,” he said.
The rebel New People’s Army recently threatened to end the unilateral ceasefire in the region because of the alleged military movement.
NPA North-Central Mindanao Spokesperson Ka Allan Juanito said the military’s deployment in the hinterland areas is a clear counter-insurgence move of the AFP.
However, President Rodrigo Duterte, in a separate press conference here, said that since the declaration of the unilateral ceasefire at the start of his term, he had not restricted the military from deploying their troops in the hinterland.
He asked the Army to continue their work in securing the country, but noted “it did not conclude that it will lead to any encounter.”
Duterte said his only mandate to the government’s troops is to never initiate any contact of violence and to never fire a shot against the communist rebels.
“The soldiers and the police should be anywhere and everywhere as long as they do not initiate any contact of violence,” he said.
The President said the unilateral ceasefire “does not deprive us of the territorial jurisdiction.” He also told the military to never prohibit the rebels from enlisting members “since it is not against the law.”
However, the NPA should also consider allowing the military to continue their civil military activity, like the IPSP Bayanihan, he added.
Duterte said he will allow the rebel groups to conduct a plenum or assembly even in Davao’s downtown areas, and he will make sure that nothing will happen as long as the peace talks will not collapse.
“I do not want (the peace negotiations) terminated or cancelled or whatever. But certainly, I cannot order my military to withdraw from anywhere to everywhere,” he said.