Palace downplays threat of more NPA attacks

Posted at 05/04/2013 9:39 PM

MANILA – Malacañang brushed off a warning of increased attacks from the New People's Army (NPA).

The warning came from Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison after government terminated peace talks with the rebels.

But presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the NPA had been relentless in its attacks even while government was in talks with the National Democratic Front, the political arm of the CPP.

"They have a forked tongue. If they want peace, why are they calling for... intensifying the violence? The truth is even when we were talking, they were continuing their attacks," Lacierda said in a radio interview on Saturday.

Lacierda added that the rebels had intensified their operations, particularly by extorting from politicians even before the peace talks were dropped.

On Saturday, NPA rebels clashed with government soldiers in Negros Occidental, resulting to the deaths of 5 soldiers.

Two others were wounded in the incident.

The attack came just days after the chief government peace negotiator Alex Padilla said talks with communist rebels had collapsed, ending hopes of achieving peace after a 44-year insurgency before President Benigno Aquino III's term ends in 2016.

The military estimates the rebels have only about 4,000 fighters nationwide, down from more than 26,000 at their peak in the 1980s.

However, they remain a danger, particularly in rural areas where they can count on support from local populations who endure the worst of the country's poverty.

The rebels have become more active ahead of the May 13 elections where they have been extorting money from politicians in return for letting them campaign. -- With Agence France-Presse; ANC