NPA: Davao del Norte ambush in self-defense; AFP ‘deceived’ Duterte

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The Comval North Davao South Agusan Subregional Command of the New People’s Army (NPA) today said that the  Philippine Army’s 72nd Infantry Battalion and Alamara paramilitary troops were engaged in combat operations before the NPA ambush that killed Alamara member Panggong Bukad and wounded four others in Brgy. Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte last July 27.

“The ambush was in adherence to the directive by the NPA National Operations Command for Red fighters to maintain on alert status and on active defense mode in response to Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s declared unilateral ceasefire with the National Democratic Front (NDF), NPA and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP),” Aris Francisco, spokesperson on the subregional command, said in a statement e-mailed to the media.

According to the rebel spokesperson, the military and the paramilitary forces were on their way to “fixed NPA targets” some 20 kilometers away from their detachment. “Had the Red fighters not taken the initiative to actively defend itself by intercepting the 72nd IB/Alamara troops, the operating AFP troops would have carried out its own combat action and inflicted damage against the NPA unit,” Francisco said.AFP Public Affairs Office Chief Col. Edgard Arevalo claimed that the soldiers were on their way back to their barracks when they were ambushed by the NPA.

But the NPA said that the AFP “twisted” the facts that they presented to Duterte.

It claimed that the AFP and Alamara troops have been on active operation in Kapalong, “resulting in several engagements,” including an ambush on July 5 that wounded one Red fighter.

“Determined to continue its offensive military operations in Kapalong, the same troops ignored the ceasefire declaration of their Commander In Chief and again took off for combat operation from their detachment in Brgy. Patil on July 26,” Francisco said.

The NPA statement was issued seemingly in response to Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s demand for the CPP to “explain” the ambush and threat to withdraw the unilateral ceasefire yesterday.

Palace spokesperson Ernesto Abella, however, today said that the Palace is hopeful that the incident will not affect the upcoming peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) and the NDF.

The NPA also claimed that the Civilian Auxilliary Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) member killed in the ambush was a member of the paramilitary group Alamara. “This is the same fanatical armed group that killed several of their own Lumad kin, harassed and threatened hundreds of civilians and continue to displace Lumads from their livelihood and communities,” Francisco said.

The rebel spokesperson added that Duterte knows about the Alamara, “having acted as mediator on several occasions in the past.”

The NPA subregional command said that it “abides with the spirit of the resumption of the peace negotiations in addressing the roots of the civil war, respects the ceasefire order of GPH Pres. Duterte, and strictly adheres to the directive of the national leadership and the CPP.”

“It is the militarist clique in the AFP and its paramilitaries like the Alamara that ridicule their Commander In Chief in virulently sabotaging the peace process,” Francisco said.

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