World Bulletin/News Desk
A top army official has called on the armed wing of the Philippines' Communist Party (CPP) to follow a deal signed by Muslim rebels and resolve its conflict with the government in a peaceful manner.
Lieutenant General Rustico Guerrero, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, issued the call to the New People’s Army (NPA) at the launch of a peace mural in Zamboanga City, a majority Christian city in the Philippines' Muslim south.
"If you have concerns regarding the different issues surrounding our society, we hope we do it in a peaceful way," he said.
Mindanao - an island group in the country’s south composed of five predominantly Muslim provinces: Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi - has been under threat from communist rebels who have vowed to intensify offensives in the region following the capture last week of two of their top leaders and some followers.
Authorities captured CPP leaders Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria March 22 on Cebu, an island in the country's center, while Andrea Rosal, another CPP leader and the daughter of former NPA Spokesman Roger Rosal, was arrested Thursday in Caloocan City, northeast of the capital Manila.
Meanwhile, in northern Mindanao, at least 72 members of the New People’s Army (NPA) surrendered to the army Friday - the day before the NPA's 45th anniversary.
Guerrero said the government is open for peace negotiations with the NPA.
"We always hope that those brothers who still pursue the path to violence, I hope they'll try the path to peace," he added. "We hope the message of peace by the government will be accepted by them. It's better to have peace than fight each other."
The government culminated years of negotiations with the country’s largest Muslim rebel group on Thursday by signing a peace accord. Under the deal, largely Muslim areas of the Mindanao will be granted greater political autonomy in exchange for an end to armed rebellion by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Other rebel groups, however, have vowed to fight on for full independence.
"If the MILF and other groups can do it, why can't they (the NPA) try the avenue for peace that the government is offering?" he asked.
Meanwhile, Guerrero said the whole of the area under his responsibilty has been on red alert since Saturday, following the capture of the leaders of the communist rebel group.
"We maintain the red alert, we are still on red alert for possible offensives from the enemies. We should be very vigilant," he said.Last Mod: 30 Mart 2014, 16:43