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NDFP to help fight Maute if gov't lifts martial law, all out war

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) on Wednesday said it will only cooperate with the government's fight against terrorists if the Duterte administration withdraws its all-out war policy and the martial law declaration in Mindanao.

In a press statement, NDF negotiating panel chair Fidel Agcaoili said both peace panels must at least lay the foundation for a potential cooperation between government forces and the New People's Army.

"The GRP must at best unilaterally withdraw its all-out war policy and martial law declaration or at least allow its negotiating panel to meet with the NDFP negotiating panel to start discussing coordination and cooperation in Marawi and subsequently on a wider scale," Agcaoili said.

The remarks of Agcaoili came after President Rodrigo Duterte's appeal to the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, and Muslim separatists to join the fight against the ISIS-inspired Maute group in Marawi City.

Duterte's statement, however, came after the government peace panel's withdrawal from the fifth round of peace talks with the NDF due to a directive from the CPP that the NPA intensify its offensive operations.

Agcaoili said the government is "culpable in the first place for waging a nationwide all-out war policy of aerial bombardments and artillery attacks against the revolutionary forces" which was aggravated by the martial law declaration.

Nonetheless, Agcaoili said they have been doing their part in warding off Maute members in the vicinity of Marawi City through its Moro Revolutionary Liberation Organization (MRLO).

He said the MRLO are in "home defense" mode against the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups, while NPA members have been tasked to hold blocking operations.

Agcaoili added that the MRLO and the NPA can cooperate with government security forces by "keeping a safe distance, maintaining independence and initiative and avoiding problems of getting mixed up with the AFP and PNP units."

Agcaoili feared the Marawi crisis may recur in other parts of Mindanao if the meeting between the two peace panels does not happen soon.

"The localized ceasefire, coordination and cooperation can be agreed upon if the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) and NDFP negotiating panels meet first and discuss matters in detail," Agcaoili said.

"It is not too late to have such a meeting of the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels because the terrorist attack on Marawi might still be prolonged or if suppressed soon, might recur in other parts of Bangsamoro," he added. — BAP, GMA News