Manila - The Arroyo government is gearing up for an all-out battle against the communists following the collapse of negotiations with the National Democratic Front (NDF), the political wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). Among other things, government forces will start arresting Front members who have been given safe-conduct passes because of the peace talks.
Last week, Front leaders, who are living in self-exile in Utretch, the Netherlands, said they were unilaterally withdrawing from the talks. They said it would only be a matter of time before the scandal-plagued government of President Gloria Arroyo collapsed and they wanted to wait for a new government before agreeing to resume peace talks.
Ms Nieves Confesor, the government's chief negotiator, said Manila was not surprised with the Front's decision. "We have seen a lot of their double talk in the past. They claim to want peace - but they foment violence in our community. We have known enough of their ambuscades and assassinations, even of our civilians," she said.
Ms Confesor added that the real reason for the Front's withdrawal from the talks was their failure to have the CCP, the New People's Army (NPA) and their leader Jose Sison "removed from the terrorist rolls of the United States and the European Community".
"The NDF stands to lose much from closing the door to the peace talks. Its withdrawal endangers the gains it has made, specifically the political space provided under The Hague joint declaration and other signed agreements." Front members, who had been given safe-conduct passes, would now no longer be immune to arrests.
In another development, more tactical police units will patrol Metro Manila's streets to address the terrorist threat, a spokesman for the National Capital Region Police office said on July 1.
Some 1,000 members of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) and Regional Special Action Unit (RSAU) would be fielded in the metropolis to thwart terrorist threats. These two police units are trained for close-quarter battles and anti-terrorism tactics, and are often used to deal with bank robberies and hostage takings.
Supt Agrimero Cruz Jr stressed that the alert level in Metro Manila is "normal". The units are being deployed because of the threat posed by the NPA, the Abu Sayyaf and similar terror groups. "The threat would always be there. Our intelligence units are constantly monitoring their activities," he said.
* Government gears up for battle with communist rebels (The Manila Times, Aug 1)
* More tactical police units for Metro Manila (The Manila Times, Aug 1)