PH Army: NPA rebels kill, abduct soldiers despite ceasefire

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — A junior military officer was killed while two other soldiers were abducted by suspected New People's Army (NPA) rebels, military authorities said on Thursday.

In an official statement, the Philippine Army's 10 Infantry Division accused the NPA of violating its own unilateral ceasefire declaration, despite its earlier announcement--saying this has yet to lapse by February 10.

"The 10ID demands the immediate release of our soldiers," Capt. Rhyan Batchar, chief of the 10th ID's Public Affairs Office.

"We further urge the CPP to order the NPA to immediately stop committing criminal acts victimizing the people that could imperil the peace negotiations."

The Army further said the communist rebels have staged at least two separate attacks, just hours after the NPA announced on Wednesday morning, it is ending its unilateral ceasefire on February 10.

On Wednesday afternoon, NPA fighters attacked members of the police and troops from the 67th Infantry Battalion who were on their way to Sitio Paliwason in Barangay Lambog, Manay, Davao Oriental.

They were responding to reports that the rebels were forcing residents to join the communist movement.

Second Lieutenant Miguel Victor Alejo was killed in the firefight.

The slain soldier was a member of Philippine Military Academy "Sinaglahi" Class of 2015. His remains were brought to Davao City on Thursday morning.

Major General Rafael Valencia, 10th ID commander said, "it is very sad that this incident happened while the NPA was supposed to be observing a unilateral ceasefire which they say is still in effect until February 10."

The military also condemned the abduction of two 39th Infantry Battalion soldiers by suspected members of the NPA in Sultan Kudarat early Thursday.

The two soldiers were on board a motorcycle on their way to the battalion headquarters in Pobalacion, Makilala in the province of Cotabato when 10 armed men flagged them down at Purok 7, Barangay Telafas in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat at around 7:30 a.m., the military said.

Combined elements of the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines are conducting "hot pursuit operations" to run after the captors and rescue the kidnap victims, the Police Regional Office 12 said in a statement.

CNN Philippines is trying to reach the NPA for comment.

While the NPA earlier announced its truce still holds until February 10, it has ordered all of its commands and units to continue to "carry out active defense in order to defend the people and revolutionary forces."

The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which aims to overthrow the government and replace it with a "national democratic state."

The NPA said it will continue to support the peace talks between the government and the National Democratic of the Philippines (NDF), which represents the rebels in the negotiations to end 48-year-old insurgency waged by the NPA.

The government and NDF peace panels failed to sign a bilateral ceasefire agreement after the third round of peace talks in Rome, Italy last January, but they agreed to discuss it on February 22-27 in the Netherlands. The fourth round of peace talks has also been scheduled to resume in Oslo, Norway on April 2-6.

The NPA through its spokesman Ka Oris has told the government "it is possible to negotiate while fighting."