National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and other officials are fed with wrong information communist rebels have a so-called “hit list” which includes President Rodrigo Duterte,
Malacanang said Monday.
READ: Reds debunk ‘hit list,’ say it blocks peace
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the alleged list of targets for the assassination was a “false news” since it was denied by the Communist Party of the Philippines.
“That report is false news. It has been denied by [communist leader] Jose Maria Sison himself...He [Esperon] was fed by a false information,” Panelo told Palace reporters.
But Panelo was quick to say “it is not far-fetched” that communist rebels would try to eliminate key government officials, including the President.
“The very essence of a rebellion is to put the government down. So definitely that includes assassinating people running the government,” Panelo said.
“But we’re ready for that. They have been trying to do that for the past 50 years but they’ve failed,” he added.
In the meantime, the Philippine National Police attributed to the New Peoples’ Army an attack on a police patrol vehicle Monday in Tubungan, Iloilo.
PNP acting chief Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa told a press conference in Camp Crame that “there’s a very big possibility” the NPA was behind an improvised explosive device ambush in Iloilo that injured two policemen.
The attack happened a day after the government and the CPP declared a long holiday ceasefire beginning Dec. 23 and will last until Jan. 7, 2020.
“For the past few days we had massive operations and we were pursuing the communist local terrorists, the NPAs, and probably there’s a very big possibility that they are behind this,” Gamboa said in a mix of English and Filipino.
DND spokesman Arsenio Andolong also said all units of the Armed Forces had been notified regarding the unilateral and reciprocal ceasefire that the government declared with the CPP.
“The appropriate directive has been properly communicated and disseminated to all AFP units, and will remain on alert, and stand ready [to] respond to any threats to the safety and security of our communities,” Andolong added.
Gamboa declared a suspension of offensive police operations against the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front.
In the Senate, Senator Ronald dela Rosa said he remained hopeful there would be peace following the unilateral and reciprocal nationwide ceasefires between the two sides.
“Though my doubts have factual basis still I am hopeful that genuine and lasting peace can be finally achieved,” said Dela Rosa, a former PNP chief.
To prove their sincerity, Dela Rosa said the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/ NDF should be true to their unilateral ceasefire declaration in words and in deeds.
“The ceasefires are intended to generate a positive environment conducive to the holding of informal talks preparatory to the formal meeting to ensure the peace negotiation. These shall be measures of goodwill and confidence building during the traditional celebrations of Christmas and New Year holidays,” according to a Joint Statement.
Senator Christopher Go also called on the NPA to prove their sincerity on the resumption of peace talks
as he denounced their death threats against President Duterte.
He warned the threats would only imperil the proposed resumption of peace talks between the government and the NPA.
Go reminded them to think twice before threatening the life of the President, adding that Filipinos should not kill each other.
The senator also stressed the NPA should not undermine the trust and confidence of the President as he recalled how they would visit several times the rebels’ lair in Davao to rescue abducted soldiers without any security personnel.
Apart from the communist rebels, drug criminals and syndicates have also placed the President on their hit list, according to the Presidential Security Group.
Following these threats and with the CPP’s 51st anniversary on Dec. 26, the PSG was reported to have intensified its efforts to secure the President.
READ: AFP rules out Xmas ceasefire with Reds
The President had ordered the DND, the DILG, the AFP and the PNP “to issue an official declaration” to all armed units and agents for them to observe the truce.
Malacañang spokesperson Salvador Panelo said President Duterte had ordered the reconstitution of the government’s peace negotiating panel, with Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea among its members.
With the ceasefire declaration and the reconstitution of the peace panel, Panelo said the administration looked forward to a resumption of negotiations with the NDFP, the umbrella organization of the local communist movement.
But Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio asked that her city be excluded from the government’s ceasefire with communist rebels, warning rebels might only take advantage of the season to stage more attacks.
“We respectfully caution the Duterte administration over its move to reopen the peace negotiations with the NDF,” Carpio said.
Esperon earlier said he and Duterte were included in kill list of the CPP’s NPA and the rebels would launch terrorist activities in urban areas this Yuletide, prompting the Presidential Security Group to intensify security measures for the Chief Executive.
The PSG surrounded the President with a bulletproof glass panel in his public engagement last Friday at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila following the threats.
On Dec. 21, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said two alleged high-ranking officials of the NPA were slain during a shootout with policemen and soldiers in Quezon City, adding that they were part of the communist “special teams” tasked to liquidate Duterte and other officials in the supposed kill list.
Sison earlier branded as “psywar” Esperon’s claim that the President had been included in the kill list, saying this was done to hamper the resumption of peace talks.
READ: Reds scoff at safe-passage offer, bat for talks in ‘neutral country’