MANILA –Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana denied on Tuesday insinuations that the military is out to sabotage the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the communist rebels.
“We want peace. We do not want to sabotage. We support the peace process that was initiated by the President (Rodrigo Duterte),” Lorenzana said in a Palace media briefing.
Lorenzana also refuted claims by National Democratic Front (NDF) negotiating panel chairman Luis Jalandoni that the brutal killing of three soldiers in Bukidnon could be a rubout from the military to pin down blame on the NPA.
“The accusation of Mr. Jalandoni, it’s not true,” he said, adding that NPA North Central Committee spokesperson Alan Juanito has admitted that NPA rebels accosted the three soldiers.
“They claimed that the three soldiers fought back that’s why they shot them. They (three soldiers) sustained 73 gunshot wounds. That’s too much,” Lorenzana added.
He said the NPA rebels are big threat to the security of the country due to the atrocities and extortions they do in the far flung barangays of the country.
“They are trying to consolidate barangays, threatening them. They continue to extort money from businessmen especially in the south, from mining firms, plantations, contractors of the roads. We know somebody has been paying 2 percent of the gross cost of their projects to the NPA,” Lorenzana said.
“So they are threat because they can always launch attacks to our troops. You saw how they attacked foresters in Batangas. They entered in one resort there under the guise of the military,” he added.
He said the NPA rebels who resort to extortions have no difference from the bandits like Abu Sayyaf who kidnap people and would kill their victims if they refuse to give money.
“There’s no difference at all. They are there to terrorize people to give them money, that’s extortion. So we will hunt them down and maybe stop them from what they are doing,” Lorenzana said.
“It is an all-out war because they are considered by the President already as terrorists. We also consider them as terrorists,” he added.
Lorenzana downplayed the NPA rebels’ claim that they control 500 barangays all over the country.
“I think it’s not true that they control these barangays because if there will be referendum in these barangays, they will be rejected by the barangay people. Takot lang sila kaya akala nila controlled nila,” he said.
The DND official said the people in the remote barangays can report to the military if they are being harassed by the NPA rebels.
Lorenzana clarified that an all-out war that President Duterte declared against NPA will focus only against its nearly 5,000 armed components all over the country.
“We will not target those peace-loving supporters who are farming. They will not be touched. It’s only the armed component that we are going after because they are the ones who can go around and intimidate people,” he explained.