TAKING BACK MARAWI. Soldiers continue to flush terrorists out of Marawi City. File photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) agreed to stop offensive operations between government troops and the communist New People’s Army (NPA), as military and police battle terrorists in Marawi City.
"The Philippine government hereby correspondingly reciprocates with the same declaration of not undertaking offensive operations against the New People’s Army to pave way for the eventual signing of a mutually agreed bilateral ceasefire agreement and agreements on social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and end of hostilities and disposition of forces towards a just and lasting peace," government peace panel chairperson Silvestre Bello III said in a statement on Sunday, June 18.
Bello’s statement comes a day after the NDF, in a statement, announced that its armed forces in Mindanao had already been told to hold, block, or defend against terror groups trying to wreak havoc in parts of the island region.
"The NDFP has already instructed the Moro Resistance and Liberation Organization (MRLO) inside Marawi City to assume home defense tasks against the Maute, Abu Sayyaf, and AKP groups. The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has also directed units of the New People’s Army (NPA) close to Marawi City to redeploy for the purpose of mopping up, holding and blocking operations, if necessary," NDF chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said on Saturday, June 17.
The NDF also recommended that all NPA units in Mindanao stop offensive operations against military and police "provided that the GRP order the AFP and PNP likewise to refrain from carrying out offensive operations against the NPA and people’s militia."
Both sides, in separate statements, said they "[continue] to adhere to mutually acceptable principles of national sovereignty, democracy, and social justice, as laid down in The Hague Joint Declaration."
On Saturday, in a speech in Agusan del Norte, a province in Mindanao, President Rodrigo Duterte said he was thinking about absorbing qualified members of the NPA into the military.
The 5th round of talks between the government and the communists had been canceled after the CPP ordered forces on the ground to "accelerate and intensify attacks against the government," following Duterte’s proclamation of martial law in Mindanao.
Duterte’s proclamation was triggered by an attempt by members of the Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups to take over Marawi City on May 23. The President also suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, which gives military and police more leeway for conducting warrantless arrests.
The two terror groups have pledged allegiance to the international terror group Islamic State (ISIS). Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who was the subject of the arrest operation that triggered the Marawi City clashes, is said to have direct contact with ISIS. (READ: What ISIS follower Isnilon Hapilon’s transcripts reveal about his childhood)
Police and military have arrested several members of the Maute Group, including the family patriarch and matriarch, at different checkpoints in Mindanao. (READ: Maute mother charged in CDO court for rebellion)
Martial law stays in effect for a maximum of 60 days unless Duterte seeks an extension and gets congressional approval. The Supreme Court recently held oral arguments on petitions seeking the nullification of martial law. – Rappler.com