MANILA, Apr 24 (Mabuhay) – Despite calling the New People’s Army (NPA) a “bandit group,” the Philippine government will not declare an all-out war against them, Malacañang said Wednesday.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said that although the rebels had “legitimate” concerns before, the NPA has now “resorted to banditry” by extorting money from local politicians and even civilians.
“They may have ideologies before, but what have they done? Nag-eextort sila ng pera. We have even heard that the people that they are supposed to protect, iyon ang hinihingan nila ng pera,” Lacierda said at a press briefing.
Lacierda, however, took a softer stance when asked about an all-out war against the NPA rebels. He instead called on the insurgents “to come down the mountains” and “enjoy the progress of the country.”
“There are people there who might have been misinformed, who may not have seen that this government is committed to changing their situation. May plano po tayo para sa mga kaibigan nating nasa bundok,” he said.
“We are asking those who have remained behind to see what we have to offer them. As I said, stop surviving and start living,” he added.
Lacierda, however, warned the rebels who will continue to resort to violence that they will be arrested and be brought to justice. “Let me just ask them to apologize to these civilians they have murdered… You want to challenge us? Go ahead. Make our day,” he said.
On Sunday, NPA rebels attacked the convoy of Senator Teofisto Guingona III’s mother, Mayor Ruthie de Lara-Guingona of Gingoog City in Misamis Oriental. The mayor survived an attack, but her security aide and driver were killed
In a statement issued Sunday, the communist rebels apologized for the incident, but said it will continue its checkpoint operations in Mindanao, where candidates and their security escorts are prohibited from carrying firearms.
The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which has been waging war against the Philippine government for over four decades now. Formal peace talks between the communist-led National Democratic Front (NDF) and the Philippine government have remained stalled since 2004. (MNS)