Duterte orders AFP, PNP to use all assets vs communist groups

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte yesterday directed the military and police to use all their assets in the war against communist groups following the ambush launched by the New People’s Army (NPA) that killed four policemen in Bansalan, Davao del Sur.

In the absence of peace talks, Duterte said he has directed the AFP “to go ahead and wage a war against them… anything goes for now.”

“I’ll allow police and military to use all available assets,” Duterte said yesterday during his meeting with Bansalan folks in his visit to the ambush victims in the town. “Go ahead, flatten the hills.”

The president said he is now allowing the military to use assets such as fighter jets and rockets to fight the communist groups as he issued apology to any collateral damages.

“I’m sorry this gory incident (ambush) had to happen,” Duterte said.

The President lamented the attack staged by the NPA that killed four police officers who were tasked to investigate a murder report in a remote barangay.

PO3 Jayden May Rabor, a member of the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) in Digos City, and PO1s Rolly Benelayo, Joe Narvaza, and Saro Mangutara of Bansalan Municipal Police died when they were ambushed in Barangay Sibayan, Bansalan on Wednesday morning.

“They (police officers) were only about to investigate. What color is there?” Duterte said.

The President said he had offered peace from the start but the rebels rejected it.

The ambush occurred just as the government and the communist rebels were to hold backchannel talks in resuming formal peace negotiations.

President Duterte cancelled the peace talks after communist rebels staged repeated attacks on government troopers.

The communist group pulled out from talks after Duterte refused to release around 400 political prisoners.

Control your people

Malacañang said the ambush will have an effect on efforts to revive peace talks with the Left.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said communist leaders should be able to control their people on the ground.

“In other words that they should also cease action, that they should in fact take it upon themselves to be responsible for their own people, and also to release prisoners. So this is part of the expectations of the President regarding the matter. How it would affect? It would provide some sort of influence, however there is the bigger thing which is the pursuit of peace,” Abella said in a news conference.

For Police Director General Ronald Dela Rosa, the Bansalan ambush is a lesson learned.

The police chief admitted that it was the not first time that ambush, involving both police and the communist rebels, happened in the said Davao del Sur town.

Dela Rosa said he police should to coordinate with the Armed Forces of the Philippines in operation in critical areas.

“We should be watchful and be aggressive,” Dela Rosa told reporters in a press conference held at the Bansalan Municipal hall yesterday. “We should strike first, not the other way around.”

Dela Rosa said the chiefs of police should know the operational environment of their area of jurisdiction.

When he was the chief of police in Bansalan, Dela Rosa said there was already an ambush perpetrated by the communist rebels.

He recalled that a previous police chief, a certain Chief Insp. Mambalot, was ambushed by members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

“The scenario was the same, the police responded to a crime report when they were ambushed,” Dela Rosa said.

In one of their operations in the town, Dela Rosa said they were retrieving a body of a crime victim.

“When we lifted the body, we noted that there was a grenade beneath it,” Dela Rosa said. “It was a good thing that we took the body slowly.”

Davao del Sur Gov. Douglas Cagas is supporting Dela Rosa’s order that there should be more intelligence networking between the PNP and the AFP.

The governor said the ambush incident was just a “show of force” as the military authorities are claiming that the strength of the rebels is already weak.

Col. Tyne Bañas, the commander of 1002nd Infantry Brigade, said that troopers of 73rd and 39 infantry battalions continue to conduct pursuit operation in the area.

Bañas claimed the strength of the NPA weakened compared to their number in late 90s. “But the rebels recovered in Sta. Cruz, Digos, and Bansalan (all in Davao del Sur) towards Makilala (Cotabato) area.”

Dela Rosa personally handed over cash assistance to the families of the slain police officers.

Cagas also gave financial and burial assistance to the families. He also promised the scholarship of the victim’s children.

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