LAST August 27 Sun Star reported that elements from the Philippine Army of the 4th Infantry (Diamond) Division figured in a firefight with more or less 15 rebels belonging to the New People’s Army (NPA) at Sitio Gamot in Brgy. Sta Filomena, Quezon, Bukidnon. The firefight resulted to the death of one soldier with undetermined casualties on the part of the NPA. It is from the community of Sta. Filomena that the rebels get their much-needed logistical and financial support through extortion from sugar cane and corn growers, according to the report.

In connection with this encounter of the Army with the NPA, Maj. Gen. Victor A. Felix AFP Commander of the 4th Infantry Division based at Camp Evangelista in Barangay Patag made the following statement: “It is our wish for the NPA rebels to heed the government’s call for peace. We believe that no one should get hurt regardless of the group they belong to, for we are all Filipinos. As I mourn for the loss of one of my sons, rest assured that his ultimate sacrifice will only make our resolve to achieve lasting peace in the area stronger.”

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General Felix expresses here the stand and the sentiments of the Armed Forces with respect to the peace process here in Mindanao, and rightly so. I wish to commend the General for this timely statement on the peace process. More than ever before, now is the time to make peace, to put an end to this insane war where Filipinos are killing other Filipinos in order to get even with each other.

The Inquirer of August 28 reported a far more brutal incident that happened in Barangay Imelda, Catarman, Northern Samar: eight policemen were killed in an ambush by New People’s Army guerrillas. According to the villagers, interviewed by police and military investigators, the policemen were like sitting ducks, outnumbered and outmaneuvered by about 40 armed rebels laying in wait.

Immediately after the blasts, the policemen were surrounded and peppered with bullets.

Later, each policeman was shot at close range in the head to ensure no one would get out alive. The NPA in northern Samar issued a statement owning up to the ambuscade as a “tactical offensive”. But it denied using land mines, saying what they used were “command detonated explosives”. What is the difference? The NPA knows very well that international humanitarian law forbids using land mines and even ‘command detonated explosives’. Both the NDF and the government panel have signed the agreement, but time and again the agreement has been violated at both sides.

Under the present government of Noynoy Aquino there is no reason anymore to continue this civil war. Slowly, a situation is being created that is conducive to reconciliation and forgiveness. In this atmosphere negotiations can be conducted which will discuss the major socio-economic issues that have to be addressed. And most of all, the conditions will be discussed under which the arms of the rebels will be laid down and their armed forces will be re-integrated in Philippine society. If all this cannot be done overnight, neither does the process have to last for an indefinite time. When there is goodwill on both sides an early agreement is expected to be reached in the near future.

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