Army backs talks

NPA also urged to consider Mayor Sara’s localized peace plan

THE MILITARY yesterday expressed full support for Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio’s decision to pursue localized peace talks with the New People’s Army (NPA).

Lt. Col. Raymund Dante Lachica, commanding officer of the 3rd Infantry Battalion (3rd IB), said they support the plans of the city mayor in attaining peace. In the same vein, “We encourage the reds to go back to the folds of the law.”

Based on the records of the 3rd IB, there are two guerilla fronts–GF 54 and GF 56—operating in the hinterlands of Toril, Marilog, and Paquibato districts. There are also three Pulang Bagani Commands in the city.

An NPA battalion will normally have around 300 combatants, while a company has a maximum of 80 Red fighters. One platoon typically has 21 communist guerrillas, or eight short of an army platoon. The military claimed that the number of rebels in the Davao Region has dwindled.

Mayor Duterte on Tuesday signed the order creating the Davao City-Local Peace Committee (DC–Peace), which is tasked to manage the localized peace talks with the New People’s Army operating within the area of responsibility of Davao City.

The DC–Peace members are Maria Luisa Bermudo of the City Social Services and Development Office; Lawyer Elisa Lapina of the City Legal Office; Barangay Malabog chief Jessielito Areja; and Archbishop Romulo Valles of the Catholic Church. However, the city mayor still has to appoint somebody from the private sector to head the committee.

The committee will only be good until November 2018 if there are no significant developments and movement in the localized process, Duterte said.

Duterte, during her state of the city address on Tuesday, urged the NPA to work with them.

The city mayor, in a press conference, said that localized peace talks will not impact on the scuttled peace negotiations between the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/ National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) and the Government of the Philippines.

President Duterte, during his state of the nation address this past July, ordered the GRP panel to go home after a convoy of Presidential Armed Group, his personal security, was ambushed in Arakan town, North Cotabato.

The President said the other side has yet to show its commitment to peace.

On the other hand, Brig. Gen. Bienvenido Datuin, assistant division commander of the 10th Infantry Division, said he is happy with the decision of the city mayor.

“The localized peace talk might be the answer as the peace talks of the government between the CPP-NPA-NDF were always suspended,” he said. “The people on the ground do not follow the ceasefire agreement of their leaders.”

“I hope that the other side will also respect the decision of the local government,” Datuin added.

To date, the National Democratic Front-Southern Mindanao Region has yet to issue a reaction to the mayor’s Soca speech.