Top officials of the Philippine Army in Caraga Region assured the public that they will follow whatever the decision of President Rodrigo R. Duterte on the peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).
In a press conference on Saturday (December 14) at the headquarters of the 402nd Infantry Brigade (402Bde), Brig. Gen. Maurito L. Licudine said the army will also “toe the line whatever is the decision made”–including the non-extension of martial law when it lapses on December 31.
Licudine said the decision to enter again into a peace process with the CPP-NPA is a political decision.
“Like good soldiers, the Army will respect and follow the decision,” the Army official said, adding the insurgency problem in the country cannot be solved entirely through a military solution.
Col. Allan Hambala, commander of the 401st Infantry Brigade (401Bde), who also attended the press conference along with the commanders of the various Army battalions, echoed Licudine’s statement.
“For now, we have a job to do and a mission to accomplish. We will do our job since the peace talk has not yet started,” Hambala said, referring to the ongoing military operations against the NPA in Caraga.
Licudine hopes that during the peace negotiations, the government “must also have the upper hand, otherwise, the negotiations will only be used as a tool by the CPP-NPA to move their revolution.”
Both brigade commanders also assured the military will follow if the President decides to end the implementation of martial law in Mindanao.
Winning vs. NPA
The military officials also said the government is winning against the CPP-NPA in Caraga through the implementation of Executive Order No. 70 issued by President Duterte.
EO 70 is the “whole-of-nation” approach in ending the local communist conflicts in communities in the country.
Licudine said all the task force at the regional and provincial levels, as mandated by EO 70, is actively functioning in Caraga.
“We are now working in the municipal and barangay levels,” he said.
There are 80 barangays in the region that are considered conflict-affected, disadvantaged, and isolated and considered priorities for direct development interventions of the government, he added.
He said the Peace, Law Enforcement, and Security (PLES) Cluster consisting of the Army and the Philippine National Police (PNP) is also working in barangays identified within the guerrilla zones of the CPP-NPA.
He said these areas include the Zapanta Valley and the Nasicam Complex in Agusan del Norte, the Mainit—Malimono areas in Surigao del Norte, the Sibagat-Bayugan Complex in Agusan del Sur, the Andap Valley Complex in Surigao del Sur, the La Paz-San Luis Complex in Agusan del Norte, and the Bislig-Rosario Complex in Surigao del Sur. (PNA)