MANILA — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday strongly condemned the New People’s Army (NPA) for its continued detention of three police officers who were kidnapped in Surigao Del Norte last November.
This statement after the rebels’ suspended the release of the three despite earlier claimed that the captives will be freed as a show of support to Pope Francis’ visit in the country.
“We are saddened that instead of fulfilling their promise of releasing the victims, the NPA is now engaging in propaganda war by blaming the AFP of causing the suspension of the release of the policemen. Obviously, they wanted to drive a wedge between the AFP and the PNP which had shown an effective collaboration in addressing the social issues in the local communities that had been exploited by the (rebels) in the past,” AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said.
There is no truth to the allegations that the military has launched offensive operations against the NPAs in violation to the government-declared suspension of offensive military operations (SOMO) which ended today, Jan. 19, he added.
During the period of the truce, soldiers remained in their respective posts in hinterland villages to carry out peace and development activities and to defend vital government installations and also peaceful communities.
“If the (CPP-NPA-NDF) are indeed serious in showing goodwill and spirit of compromise especially that they have shown interest in pushing peace negotiations, they can easily free the victims and allow local officials to fetch them,” Cabunoc said.
He added that despite these challenges, “the AFP remains firm in its commitment to claim the peace in our land and support the government in pursuing a peaceful resolution to this long-drawn armed conflict with our fellow Filipinos.”
“If the CPP-NPA-NDF want to work with the government in resolving the issues peacefully, an example of a positive step towards peace is the unconditional release of the kidnap victims,” the AFP public affairs office chief said.
In case the rebels continue to renege on its promise of releasing the three kidnap victims, the AFP will do its best to rescue the hostages after the lifting of the SOMO, Cabunoc said.