Esperon: Robredo not in NPA hit list

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    BY VICTOR REYES and JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR

    VICE President Leni Robredo is not in the hit list of the New People’s Army-Communist Party of the Philippines, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said on Tuesday night.

    Interviewed after the celebration the Armed Forces’ 84th foundation anniversary, Esperon said he did not see the name of Robredo in the list which was recovered from the communists.

    “I did not see the name of the Vice President but what should be (important), what is important to us now is we are alive,” Esperon said.

    Robredo has been linked by the military to a supposed plot to unseat President Duterte.

    Esperon, asked if President Duterte is in the list, said, “Of course. It’s automatic.”

    The Presidential Security Group (PSG) yesterday said threats to the President’s life are expected given that he is the highest official of the land.

    PSG Commander Brig. Gen. Jose Niembra, in an interview in Malacañang, said the President and his family are provided ample security.

    “Sabi nga natin, ang misyon ng PSG is to see to it that we have a living president day by day (“As we say, the mission of the PSG is to see to it that we have a living president day by day),” he said.

    Also in the hit list are Esperon, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, and other Cabinet men.

    Esperon did not say why he thinks Robredo, the figurehead of the political opposition, was not in the kill list.

    The military last year linked Robredo to a supposed “Red October” plot by the communists to oust President Duterte. Robredo denied involvement in the plot, saying her linking to the plot was meant to silence the opposition.

    The supposed plot did not prosper because it was exposed to the public, the Armed Forces said. Nevertheless, it said the communist plot to overthrow the Duterte administration is a “rolling plan.”

    The kill list was revealed earlier this month by Maj. Gen. Antonio Parlade, AFP deputy chief of staff for civil military operations and spokesman of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

    Parlade said the list included him, Esperon, Año, and Allen Capuyan, chairman of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.

    Esperon, NTF-ELCAC vice chairman, confirmed he in the list, together with Armed Forces chief Gen. Noel Clement who was linked to, but later cleared of, the kidnapping of peasant leader Jonas Burgos in April 2007.

    On whether President Duterte is in the list, Esperon said: “Of course, its automatic, the President is (included).”

    Esperon, a former Armed Forces chief and Army chief, said he was not surprised he is in the kill list. He noted he captured a ranking CPP leader when he was still a major assigned in Central Luzon.

    ‘TOP PRIORITY’

    Niembra said Duterte is expected to be the “top priority” in the communist hit list, being the President, and because of the coming anniversary of the communist group on December 26.

    He also said other armed groups and drug syndicates are also targeting Duterte, not just the NPA, the armed wing of the communist party.

    Nimebra assured the public the PSG has measures to ensure the safety and welfare of the President and his family.

    He also said Duterte knows how to handle himself and usually follows PSG’s advice when it comes to security arrangements.

    TRUCE REJECTED

    Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana rejected a recommendation of Sen. Imee Marcos for the defense and military establishment to declare a unilateral ceasefire with the communist group during the Christmas season.

    “We don’t recommend the holiday ceasefire because we are put at a disadvantage (during ceasefire),” Lorenzana said in an ambush interview in Camp Aguinaldo on Tuesday night.

    Lorenzana earlier this month said he is not going to recommend a truce to President Duterte because it would be “disadvantageous” to government. He said the communist rebels took advantage of past ceasefires by burning heavy equipment of companies which refuse to pay “revolutionary tax,” a euphemism for extortion.

    This would be the second time during the Duterte administration that the defense and military establishments are not going to recommend a Yuletide ceasefire.

    Marcos called for the ceasefire so that soldiers can be with their families to celebrate Christmas. She warned the rebels that attacking soldiers during the season would only make the public angry at them.

    “She has a point but our soldiers go on break during the season in batches — one third during Christmas, another third during New Year, and the last third after New Year.”

    CPP founding chairman Jose Maria Sison said President Duterte’s order for the military to wipe out the NPA proves he is insincere in his government’s efforts to resume peace negotiations.

    Duterte made the statement during the military anniversary Tuesday.

    “This latest statement of Duterte shows that he is not really interested in resuming peace negotiations. He continues his official termination of the peace negotiations since 2017 and the continuance of his all-out war against the people and their revolutionary movement,” Sison said.

    About two weeks ago, Duterte announced he ordered Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, chief government negotiator in the peace talks, to go to Netherlands and talk to Sison to discuss the possibility of resuming the peace negations.

    Sison has been on self-exile in the Netherlands since the 80s.

    Last week, Bello said the communist leaders agreed to resume the peace talks. On Friday, NPA rebels staged an ambush in Borongan City in Eastern Samar, killing a policeman and two civilians. Fourteen other policemen and civilians were injured.