Rebels stage new attacks, condemn Duterte for ending talks

AP News
Posted: Feb 09, 2017 7:08 AM

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines (AP) — Communist guerrillas abducted three villagers, including a policeman, and burned construction equipment in new attacks in the Philippines on Thursday and condemned President Rodrigo Duterte as a "double-speaking thug" for terminating peace talks.

Government forces were pursuing the attackers, about 60 suspected New People's Army rebels who separately seized the three people and burned construction equipment in far-flung Talakag town in southern Bukidnon province, army officials said.

The rebels burned a backhoe and two trucks at a construction company compound in Talakag apparently after failing to extort money from the firm, said Col. Eric Vinoya, an army brigade commander in Bukidnon, a mountainous pineapple-growing region about 860 kilometers (535 miles) southeast of Manila.

The abducted police officer was traveling on a motorcycle when taken at gunpoint by the rebels, he said. One of the other two abducted villagers was later found dead, officials said.

Separately, the Marxist rebels also burned two trucks transporting copper ore in the northern mountain town of Itogon in Benguet province but didn't harm the drivers, police said.

Army troops backed by rocket-firing MG520 helicopters were pursuing the rebels, Benguet police chief Senior Superintendent Florante Camuyot said.

Duterte lifted the government's ceasefire and discarded Norway-brokered peace talks with the rebels last week after the guerrillas abandoned their own truce and killed six soldiers and kidnapped two others in new flare-ups in the 48-year insurgency, one of Asia's longest-running.

Duterte, who took office in June and described himself as the country's first left-wing leader, rapidly developed rapport with the guerrillas, initiating peace talks with them and appointing two left-wing activists to his Cabinet. All that has rapidly deteriorated in recent days, with the president labeling the insurgents terrorists and revoking an agreement that several freed rebel leaders were immune from arrests.

"Duterte has gone berserk and upturned the entire peace process," the Communist Party of the Philippines said in a statement. His moves show "how difficult it is to conduct serious negotiations with a double-speaking thug who only recognizes his own rules."

Duterte's all-out war will be completely frustrated," the communists said, citing how government troops have been overstretched fighting them and other insurgents, including Muslim militant groups in the south.

Military chief of staff. Gen. Eduardo Ano played down the rebels' rhetoric, saying nobody believes the insurgent fighters, currently estimated to number 3,700, could succeed in their rebellion even in 100 years. They squandered their chance by waging attacks on troops that led to the collapse of the peace talks, he said.

"You should go back, surrender or else hide for the rest of your lives," Ano said.