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Philippine Rebels End Cease-Fire : Refuse Extension; Charge Regime Is Insincere in Talks

February 08, 1987|NICK B. WILLIAMS Jr. | Times Staff Writer

MANILA — The cease-fire between Communist-led guerrillas and government forces collapsed Saturday evening, 18 hours before it was due to expire, with the release of a rebel statement declaring that the government of President Corazon Aquino only "went through the motions" of negotiating for peace.

"We cannot see any justification for extending the cease-fire agreement which the Armed Forces of the Philippines blatantly subverted and violated," said the statement, signed by leaders of the Communists' National Democratic Front and released to news agencies here.

Teofisto Guingona, the chief government peace negotiator, declared this morning: "The refusal of the National Democratic Front to return to the negotiating table betrays a hard-line posture of a few Communist leaders--diametrically opposed to the desire of the people and many of their own members in the New People's Army who genuinely want peace."

Disputes Bad Faith Charge

At a hastily called press conference at the presidential palace, Guingona told reporters that when the Communists "accuse the government of bad faith, they would do well to examine their own record. . . . The government will keep the door to peace open, but it will not accede to unwarranted demands.

"The cease-fire lapses today because the NDF did not heed the desire of the people."

Defense Minister Rafael Ileto conceded Saturday night that the front's position doomed the cease-fire. He said that the military would commence a "gradual application of force, . . . a little pressure here and there" in a strategy of achieving regional truces with individual guerrilla commands.

Rebels List Conditions

The Communist front's "open letter to the Filipino people" declared that rebel negotiators would not resume the peace talks abandoned late last month until the government:

--Shows the determination and capacity to pursue and solve the root causes of the Philippines' problems.

--Demonstrates effective control over the military.

--Recognizes the National Democratic Front as a legitimate partner in the political arena.

--Begins to work for a general settlement of the insurgency.

"We are convinced that the Aquino government is not serious about negotiating a just and durable peace," it asserted.

5 Soldiers Slain

As the demands were being circulated, armed forces headquarters was reporting a Friday attack on an army detachment in northern Cagayan province. The report said that a force of 70 men, believed to be Communist guerrillas, killed five soldiers and wounded five others in the assault. There was no word on guerrilla casualties. Smaller skirmishes had been reported elsewhere in the past few days.

At his press conference, Guingona, speaking heatedly, criticized the Communist front's conditions for a return to the peace talks and an extension of the truce.

He insisted that the Aquino government is already working on the root causes of Philippine problems, mentioning specifically land and labor reforms.

Says Military Backs Aquino

As for effective civilian control over the armed forces, he declared: "The government does this--not because the NDF demands it, but because it is the essence of constitutional government. Despite the series of untoward acts by a misguided few from July to November last year and in January this year, the Armed Forces of the Philippines stands squarely behind President Aquino."

On the front's call for legitimacy, Guingona termed it a new demand and said it needs clarification. "Does the NDF, which does not recognize the constitution, now desire to be recognized as a political party?" he asked. "If so, is it willing to renounce violence?"

The peace negotiator said Aquino had given no special orders to the armed forces as the cease-fire lapsed, but said he did not anticipate any major military thrusts in areas where a regional truce might still be arranged. "The door is open," he declared.

18 Years of Fighting

The 60-day respite has been the only truce between the 200,000-member armed forces and the estimated 23,000 guerrillas since the Communist-led New People's Army was founded in early 1969, three years before ousted President Ferdinand E. Marcos declared martial law here. Tens of thousands of soldiers, guerrillas and civilians have been killed in the 18-year struggle, more than 2,000 since Aquino succeeded Marcos after a popularly supported military uprising nearly a year ago.

The cease-fire was accompanied by peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front on a political solution. Those negotiations foundered on a series of violent incidents and long-running intractable positions put forward by both sides.

Bishop Antonio Fortich, chairman of the National Cease-Fire Committee formed to hear and investigate violations of the truce, appealed for restraint by both sides as the cease-fire deadline of noon today approached. His panel had received petitions from Filipinos throughout the country calling for an extension, the bishop said.

Government Supported Truce

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