NDF to Muslims: We meant no disrespect
MANILA (UPDATED) - The underground communist movement on Thursday blamed "Bangsamoro provocateurs" for allegedly causing the clash between its members and Muslims praying in Mendiola.
The National Democratic Front (NDF), in a statement, claimed that the violence was "instigated by a few provocateurs from the Bangsamoro protesters."
"The failure of Bangsamoro protest organizers to calm down and hold their ranks forced our self-defense units were to protect and defend our ranks. We stand firm that the misunderstanding could have been resolved peacefully," the NDF said.
Muslims supporting the peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front were praying and reading the Koran when around 100 members of the NDF's Revolutionary Council of Trade Unions and Kabataang Makabayan (KM) suddenly appeared in the area.
The leftists came to protest the arrest of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon.
The Muslims, apparently insulted by the protesters' chants, attacked the protesters. There was no large police presence in the area when the clash erupted.
The protesters were forced to step back after they were outnumbered by the Muslims who were in the area to celebrate the historic signing.
"Kailangan mapigilan ang mga gumugulo. Respeto naman po sa ating programa," said a Muslim imam interviewed by dzMM.
At least 10 members of the NDF-allied groups were injured in the clash.
The NDF, in its statement, said it did not mean to disrespect the Muslims who gathered in Mendiola.
"We respect and support their aspiration for genuine just and lasting peace in Mindanao," it said.
The group, however, did not apologize said claimed that the violence may have been started by "police and military agents."
The NDF's young wing, the KM, issued a separate press statement praising its members for holding the rally in Mendiola.
"We commend the KM members and other revolutionary organizations who in spite of being cordoned off by armalite-weilding police have resolutely marched from Legarda to Mendiola," the group's official, Ma. Laya Guerrero, said.
Guerrero said the "lightning rally" celebrated the coming 45th anniversary of the NPA and aired their demand for the government to free the Tiamzons.