Soldiers from the 54th Infantry Battalion (IB), likely augmented by other units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), are reportedly intensifying rather than ceasing military operations in the north.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – For more than a week now, a battalion of soldiers have been intensifying military operations in Nueva Vizcaya and Ifugao, despite President Duterte’s ceasefire order. According to a statement emailed to the media, the New People’s Army command operating in the area reported the military’s ‘insubordination’ to Duterte and “subservience to those who aim to impede the peace talks.”
Both the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Philippine revolutionary organizations represented by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) have declared ceasefire orders at the start of peace negotiations in Norway this week.
But a rebel Ifugao command estimated that 10 columns of the 54th Infantry Battalion (IB), likely augmented by troops from other units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), are intensifying rather than ceasing military operations. Government soldiers are operating in the towns of Asipulo and Tinoc in Ifugao and in Ambagio in Nueva Vizcaya.
Wigan Moncontad of the NPA-Ifugao clarified that even as the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) lauded the ceasefire order by the Duterte administration, the government should still ensure that it is being carried out on the ground.
“Although the CPP limits its own ceasefire order to just a week, all NPA fighters have been obeying the command,” Moncontad said. He added that this obedience is guaranteed hundred percent.
However, he said, the AFP’s violation of its commander-in-chief’s ceasefire order “does not encourage the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) to prolong it (ceasefire).”
In light of the AFP’s continuing operations, Moncontad said, they are adapting an “active defense mode inside guerrilla fronts.”
Who is the real AFP commander?
In their statement, Moncontad said the “insubordination” of the Armed Forces raises questions as to who is its real Commander-in-Chief. He traced the record of the Armed Forces of the Philippines during the terms of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Noynoy Aquino. They pointed to the government troops’ long history as “lapdogs of US imperialism.”
The establishment of the Joint US Military Advisory Group, the repeated Balikatan exercises, Aquino’s Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and Oplan Bayanihan — these are just a few glaring examples of the US’ tenacious grip on Philippine political-military affairs, Moncontad said.
Oplan Bayanihan was patterned after the United States’ Counter-Insurgency Guide.
The NPA’s Ifugao command said the Duterte administration’s pursuit of peace may not be sitting well with rabid anti-Communists. They warned that the US government would again use everything at its disposal to obstruct the road to a just and lasting peace.
Alluding to the surprise blockbuster film Heneral Luna, he said today’s Philippine Army deserves the hero Heneral Luna’s invocation of “Kapitulo Uno of that era.” Kapitulo Uno referred to the first provision of the Articles of War at that time. It states that insubordination is punishable with death.