Will Strike Rebels Hard if They Let Truce Lapse, Ramos Warns
Gen. Fidel V. Ramos warned guerrillas Friday that the Philippine military will “hit them hard” if the national cease-fire is not extended by Sunday, the day it is due to expire. But rebels on Luzon said they would resume the war.
“Government policy is to keep the door open, for there are still two days to go,” said Ramos, the armed forces chief of staff. “That (Sunday) is the end, unless they want to negotiate again. . . .
“Where they remain hardheaded, stubborn, continue to violate our laws and the cease-fire agreement itself, we are ready to hit them hard . . . and so be ready.”
Rebel Office Closed
Government negotiators said Thursday that they are pursuing a last-minute extension of the 60-day cease-fire with the Communist-led insurgents, but there were few signs of a response Friday. Instead, the National Democratic Front, which had been negotiating for the insurgent Communist Party and New Peoples’ Army, closed its office at the National Press Club here.
At least one guerrilla command indicated that it would seek a separate extension, according to military spokesmen. And President Corazon Aquino and Defense Minister Rafael Ileto said Wednesday that the government would accept regional cease-fires.
Apparently, Ramos said, 800 to 1,000 guerrillas in northern Mindanao, the Philippines’ large southern island, “would like to come down, come out and take part in the development of the region.”
“If they are sincere about it,” he said, “the government will make sure that they get that opportunity.”
Won’t Extend Truce
At the same time, however, the National Democratic Front in northern Luzon, the island on which Manila is located, announced that it would not extend the cease-fire.
If the rebels choose to renew the war, the chief of staff said, the military will begin a campaign of all-out force to try to crush the 18-year insurgency. He was addressing a meeting of the military’s Civil Relations Service at his headquarters in Manila.
Ramos said the proposed campaign would consist of not only combat but also what he called civil relations--a combination of psychological warfare and development projects, “to win the hearts and minds” of the insurgents and their unarmed followers.
The cease-fire began Dec. 10, and government and insurgent negotiators followed it up with peace talks beginning Jan. 6. The National Democratic Front broke off the talks last week, citing a clash between demonstrators and the military outside the presidential palace in which 19 marchers were killed.
Earlier this week, Filipino voters overwhelmingly adopted a new constitution, solidifying President Aquino’s rule and strengthening the government’s hand in dealing with the insurgency. In a nationwide television address, Aquino called the vote a mandate for peace and order.
The president’s spokesman, Teodoro Benigno, told reporters that the government is preparing to announce an amnesty program later this month. Under its terms, guerrillas who come out of the hills will be offered cash for their guns and provided with jobs and a piece of land. The program is budgeted at more than $1 million.