Lacierda challenges NPA rebels: 'Make my day'

Kim Arveen Patria
Kim Arveen Patria
Yahoo! Southeast Asia Newsroom
ÍEdwin Lacierda, spokesman of Philippine President Benigno Aquino, addresses a news conference in Manila on March 2, 2013. Lacierda read an Aquino statement urging Filipino Muslim gunmen occupying a village in the Malaysian state of Sabah to "surrender without conditions," a day after a bloody firefight there left 12 of the Filipinos and two Malaysian police officers dead. AFP PHOTO / Jay DIRECTO (Photo credit should read JAY DIRECTO/AFP/Getty Images)

Malacanang on Wednesday challenged communist rebels to face the government's armed forces instead of targeting politicians and civilians.

A 500-strong Marine battalion is being moved to the 4th Infantry Division covering Misamis Oriental, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said.

The move is in response to the New People's Army attack on the convoy of Gingoog City Mayor Ruth Guingona, wounding the official and killing two of her security escorts.

"You want to challenge us? Go ahead, make our day," Lacierda said in a Palace press briefing.

Related story: NPA 'sorry' to Guingona, says it was not ambush

This, as he slammed the guerilla arm of the National Democratic Front for resorting to banditry and for making farce of the elections by using it to raise funds.

"They (communist rebels) have been reduced to a bandit group, and it makes no sense for them to continue their nefarious ways, and just help us," Lacierda said.

The Cabinet official said the NPA is taking on "soft targets" or poorly armed groups and individuals.

"They are going to the house of policemen, trying to grab mga baril (guns), or they are trying to extort money from the telcos or from a cell site," he said.

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Lacierda also hit the rebel group's solicitation of fees for "permit to campaign" in guerilla areas.

"[W]e're asking local politicians: Do not succumb to this," the presidential spokesperson said.

He added that paying such fees and so-called "revolutionary taxes" will make politicians "subject to [NPA] whims, subject to their mercy."

Also read: NPA resorting to terrorist schemes?

He further assured leaders, including candidates for the 2013 local and national elections: "There's only one Armed Forces and we will protect you."

Lacierda nonetheless emphasized the government's commitment to resume peace negotiations with NDFP, noting that the government wants guerillas to "come down from the mountains."

"We have committed to talk to them they have refused to talk to us," the Cabinet official said.

"We have always maintained that we are committed to resolving the--all internal armed conflicts," he added.

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Asked if the government is keen on declaring an all-out war against the NPA, Lacierda only said: "The CPP-NPA was borne out of legitimate grievances in the past. They have now been reduced to a bandit group."

"But there are people who... may have been misinformed, may have not seen that this government is committed to changing their situation," he added.