MANILA — Following the killing of a mayor of Agusan del Sur, the government appealed to the New People’s Army (NPA) to spare the Lumads from further violence and restart the peace negotiation with the government without any precondition.
During a press conference at the Palace on Tuesday, Undersecretary Emmanuel Bautista of the Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice and Peace said there have been a lot of Lumad killings, and most of them were perpetrated by the NPA.
Hundreds of Lumads have been killed in the past several years and it is unfortunate that the indigenous group is at the center of the violence, Bautista said.
He noted that the Lumads have been dragged into the conflict because the ancestral domains they inhabit host most NPA guerilla bases.
“We appeal to the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) – NPA to please spare the Lumads and we appeal (to them) to end the armed struggle and not to involve the Lumads in this armed struggle,” he said.
“They deserve to live freely in their ancestral domain the way they want to live, and we hope that this is respected.”
Any ideological or political issue must be resolved through peaceful means and without exploiting any group, he added.
According to Bautista, the rebels have been asking for a resumption of the peace talks but the government could only accept such peace initiative without any precondition.
Previous attempts to restart the talks bogged down because of the guerrillas’ demands for the release of consultants, who remain in government detention.
“Government is always open to the resumption of peace talks. What government is against is the setting of preconditions for these talks to resume,” he pointed out.
“But government is sincere in resuming the peace talks whenever they are ready and we have always communicated that.”
Malacañang on Tuesday condemned the killing of Mayor Dario Otaza of Loreto, Agusan del Sur, and his son, saying the police and the military have intensified their operations to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Otaza and his son, Daryl, were abducted Monday night from their home by armed men believed to be members of the NPA.
Their remains, hogtied with multiple gunshot wounds, were found by authorities at 7 a.m. on Tuesday in Barangay Bitan-agan, Butuan City.
Mayor Otaza was a Manobo, a Lumad, and a former NPA rebel himself. He helped the government in running a successful rebel returnee program that encouraged hundreds of NPA rebels to return to the fold of the law.