MALACAÑANG slammed Monday the New People Army's (NPA) "opportunistic" and "ill-timed" attack on a police station in Iloilo province.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said it was "unfortunate" that the NPA rebels attacked the Maasin town police station on Sunday, the same day when the government reciprocated the National Democratic Front's (NDF) declaration of non-offensive operations against government troops in Mindanao.
"It's unfortunate that the NPA raid of a police station in Iloilo happened on the same day the government reciprocated the National Democratic Front's declaration to refrain from undertaking offensive operations in Mindanao," Abella said in a press conference.
"Although the attack was not in Mindanao, the act was opportunistic in nature and disregards the nature of the NDF declaration," he added.
Around 50 NPA bandits reportedly raided the Maasin municipal police station around 10:45 a.m. Sunday and seized at least 12 firearms, including eight high-powered rifles.
Reports said no one was harmed during the attack.
The surprise raid of the communists' armed wing came after its political wing NDF and the government agreed for a ceasefire in Mindanao to allow state forces to focus on military offensives against Islamic State-affiliated extremists in Marawi City.
Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Jesus Dureza said the NPA's latest attack sow a "negative impact" on the peace negotiation with the communist rebels.
"It is disheartening to note that such attacks provide a negative impact in our mutual commitment with the NDF to provide that enabling law conducive to the continuation of peace negotiations with them," he said in a statement.
"The impact is not just on the peace negotiations; it also illustrates the tragedy of the insurgency," Dureza added.
Julio Montana, NPA-Panay spokesperson, had said the communist rebels waged an "all-out war" against the town's police force whose members are allegedly extorting money from small vendors and allowing the proliferation of illegal drugs and gambling.
Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla Jr. said the rebels' excuse on attacking the police station was already a "cliché" that should not be tolerated.
Padilla said the NPA merely took advantage on the deployment of government troops in the strife-torn Marawi City to fulfill their main objective "to get more arms.”
Dureza said the communist rebels’ offensive operations "must be dealt with and accordingly" by the police and military, with the cooperation of civilian agencies and affected communities.
He expressed hope that the bandits' attack "is just a birth pains of the agreement to stop offensive military actions, even if it covers only, as of now, Mindanao."
"It is an argument for a nationwide ceasefire," Dureza said.
Abella said the NDF should urge their armed comrades on the ground “to walk the talk and to show genuine sincerity on the confidence-building measure initiated by the government and their side.” (SunStar Philippines)