By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang assured the public that the government will not allow terror groups to take advantage of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, saying there are troops assigned to go after them.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the statement following reports that members of the New People’s Army (NPA) had attacked soldiers who were accompanying government officials distributing assistance to those affected by the pandemic.
In his Thursday press briefing, Roque said the government has anticipated such moves, as he assured the public that the government forces are ready to take appropriate action against “bandits.”
“Inaasahan na po natin ‘yang mga gawaing bandido gayang ganyan (We expected those bandits to do what they did),” he said.
“Meron po talagang mga sundalong naka-assign para habulin ang mga bandido at meron talagang mga sundalong naka-assign para tumulong dito sa relief efforts ng COVID-19 (There are soldiers assigned to go after these bandits and there are soldiers assigned to help in our COVID-19 relief efforts),” he added.
On Monday, President Duterte said he will never return to the negotiation table to talk peace with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) following the NPA’s attacks on soldiers while the country is facing the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There is no more peace talks to talk about. I am not and I will never be ready for any round of talks,” he said.
“The NPA, the Communist Party of the Philippines, have no respect either for their spoken words or in their deeds of killing soldiers who are on humanitarian missions,” he added.
After scrapping the peace talks in 2017, President Duterte, in December last year, ordered Labor Secretary and government peace negotiator Silvestre Bello III to return to the Netherlands to talk to CPP founder Joma Sison about restarting the peace negotiations between the two parties.
Over the weekend, Malacañang said the NPA should not expect the government to declare another ceasefire following their attacks on uniformed men.
Last week, President Duterte threatened to declare martial law in the country if the “lawlessness” of the NPA continues.
Meanwhile, Duterte on Monday expressed his gratitude to the police and the military for their sacrifices during the pandemic. The President, however, lamented that some of the country’s uniformed men had to perish while on humanitarian missions.
“I’d like to (express) my gratitude to the uniformed services natin dito: Air Force [for] flying almost with nonstop… delivering the services and medical kits required, and for the Army for delivering also in company with the government workers,” he said.
“I’m so sad about this development (on the death of uniformed personnel) but there will always be a time for reckoning,” he added.