DAVAO CITY—Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that if he were to decide, he would rather stop the peace negotiations with the communist rebels.
Speaking with the media during the Regional Peace and Order Council meeting here, Lorenzana denounced the New People’s Army NPA for burning down the Lapanday box and plastic plant last week.
Instead of building confidence in the peace process, the NPA continue to extort money from companies, and punish those who do not pay “revolutionary taxes,” Lorenzana said.
The Defense chief said they have submitted their recommendations to the ceasefire committee, which is working on the provisions of a bilateral ceasefire.
“If there will be a ceasefire, extortion should stop... burning of equipment, kidnapping and harassment to big or small companies should also stop for us to proceed with the ceasefire,” he said.
Lorenzana also said that the government should not give a buffer zone to the communists since this would be akin to giving them their own territory.
But Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Ma. Sison said the NPA has the right to attack government troops, despite ongoing talks.
“In the absence of a ceasefire agreement of any kind, the NPA has all the right to engage in active self-defense and counter-offensives,” Sison said.
He also said the government should not question the CPP’s sincerity if security forces continue to engage in an all-out war against the NPA.
“Surrender of the revolutionary forces and people under the guise of [an] indefinite ceasefire agreement should not be a measure of their sincerity,” he said.
He also said the issue of a ceasefire “should not come ahead of a substantial agreement like CASER and the long promised amnesty and release of all political prisoners listed by the NDFP.”
Sison said the “real test of sincerity” for both panels is the willingness to address “the roots of the civil war with social, economic and political reforms” to lay the basis for a “just and lasting peace.”
In a statement Wednesday, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said while the fifth round of talks with the communists would push through in The Netherlands from May 27 to June 1, he said he was dismayed by the NPA’s attacks that led him to question their sincerity in pursuing peace negotiations with the government.
The communists signed a joint interim ceasefire with the government during the last round of talks in The Netherlands, but the NPA attacks in Davao and Quirino province have led to calls for the government to drop the negotiations and pursue an all-out war.
The military said Friday that David Soriano, leader of the NPA tagged in the murder of a town mayor in 2014, was arrested Thursday afternoon at a police checkpoint in Penablanca, Cagayan.
The military report said Soriano alias Jerome Antonio or Colly was arrested at 5 p.m. in Zone 2, Barangay Camasi, along with another person.
Soriano and his companion were on board a gray Hyundai Starex when they were stopped at a police checkpoint.
In April 2014, the police tagged Soriano as the leader of an eight-man team that attack and killed Carlito Pentecostes Jr., then mayor of Gonzaga town, while the victim was in the middle of delivering his speech after a flag raising ceremony.
The military said Soriano’s group operates in the towns of Baggao, Gattaran, Amulung, Alcala, Sto. Niño, Rizal, Lasam, Allacapan, Gonzaga, Sta. Teresita, Aparri, Claveria, Ballesteros, Abulug, Pamplona, and Sanchez Mira, all in Cagayan, Calanasan, Flora, Pudtol and Sta. Marcela in Apayao.
In December 2015, the Lasam Municipal Police Station located in Western Cagayan also blamed Soriano for the killing of the police officer Ronel Palor Saturno who was gunned down inside his bar.
Saturno, an intelligence officer, was responsible for the raid by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency of a shabu laboratory in the town. President Rodrigo Duterte named the town’s incumbent mayor, Marjorie Salazar, as among a long list of suspected local elective officials involved in narco-politics.
Saturno’s family believed his death was work-related.
Saturno and Soriano, natives of Sta. Teresita town and Lasam town, were “comrades” for some time during their college days in Tuguegarao City in the early 1990s. With John Paolo Bencito
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