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'NPA violated ceasefire'

Military cites Christmas Day attacks in Davao

The Armed Forces of the Philippines on Wednesday accused the communist New People's Army (NPA) of violating its own ceasefire for the Christmas season, but vowed to stick to the truce declared by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Col. Edgard Arevalo, the military spokesman, cited two NPA attacks in the Davao Region on Christmas Day - one in Davao Oriental wherein communist fighters attempted to abduct a militiaman, and another in Compostela Valley where rebels attacked a military patrol base.

"The Armed Forces of the Philippines strongly condemns the clear violation of the New People's Army of their own ceasefire declaration as evidenced by recent attacks on our troops," Arevalo said in a statement.

"These show the duplicity and deception of the communist terrorists in saying one thing while doing the opposite," he added.

Arevalo noted that the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), had violated its own ceasefire declarations before, "since they have, for the longest time, lost their ideological mooring and resorted to actions reflective of a terrorist organization."

The NPA declared last week an eight-day unilateral ceasefire following President Duterte's call for a truce for the Christmas holiday.

"This unilateral declaration of ceasefire shall be in effect from 6:00 p.m. of December 23 to 6:00 p.m. of December 26; and 6:00 p.m. of December 30 to 6:00 p.m. of January 2, 2018," NPA spokesman Jorge "Ka Oris" Madlos said.

The government ceasefire was set on the same dates, but until 11:59 p.m. of December 26, 2017 and January 2, 2018.

Truce stays

The military spokesman said troops would stick to the President's ceasefire declaration for the holiday season, but maintain their active defense position.

"Our units and troops on the ground will remain ready to respond to any violent threat or attack that may be perpetrated by the NPA against our people and vulnerable communities," Arevalo said.

"We call on our lost brothers in the NPA to reassess their stand and take the peaceful path to peace and return to the folds of the law so that they can be with their families and become productive citizens of the community," he added.

Christmas attack

Maj. Gen. Noel Clement, commander of the Philippine Army's 10th Infantry Division, said the first attack happened on December 25, Christmas Day at 9:30 a.m. in Barangay Tubaon, Tarragona, Davao Oriental.

About 30 communist fighters attempted to abduct Arbilito Catampao, a Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) member, who was assigned at a patrol base under the 10th Infantry Division (ID).

The NPA rebels managed to escape from the scene. Clement said the fully armed communist fighters were under the command of "Jekol" and "Ramie," NPA commanding officers.

Hours after, in Melale village, Laak, Compostela Valley, an undetermined number of NPA members under the Guerilla Front 34 "harassed" a Cafgu patrol base under the 72nd Infantry Battalion.

"Approximately, the terrorists were positioned at more or less 250 meters northwest from the said [patrol base]," he said in a report.

Clement said troops immediately established a defensive position upon sensing that the Cafgu detachment was being "harassed" by NPA rebels. The troopers returned fire after the communist rebels made the first shots.

The firefight between government forces and communist fighters in Compostela Valley lasted for about two minutes, with the NPA withdrawing toward the northwest direction of the encounter site.

Clement said there were no casualties on the side of the military, but claimed there was an "undetermined number of casualties" on the side of the NPA.

"The harassment did not prosper since 10 ID is on full alert and vigilant for possible CPP-NPA attacks on our people and vulnerable communities," he said.

In a phone interview, Clement told The Manila Times: "We have launched pursuit operations against these NPA rebels and it is still ongoing."

[Source: By Dempsey Reyes, The Manila Times, Manila, 28Dec17]

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