07/24/2012, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Quezon: mass grave story unfounded, meant to derail talks

Military release story. Sources tell AsiaNews that massacre took place in 1990s and that is has already been tried.

Manila (AsiaNews) - The discovery of a mass grave with the skeletons of some 30 people killed by the Communist insurgency could jeopardise talks between the government and the New People's Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

The remains were found a few days ago in the village of Pagsangahan (Quezon). A preliminary investigation by the military suggests that the victims were killed by the Maoist group in the mid-80s because they were suspected of collaborating with the military.

The government's Commission on Human Rights chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales reportedly said the commission would probe the alleged mass graves to find truth and culprits.

For the military, the discovery of the mass grave casts a dark shadow on NPA leaders involved in talks.

Fr Jose Dizon, from the diocese of Imus, is not convinced. In his view, the news about the mass grave was staged by some factions within the military to derail negotiations between the government on the one hand and the CPP and the National Democratic Front (NDF), of which the CPP is a member, on the other.

"As far as I know NDF has already acknowledged" the "mistake the movement made during the 1990s when there was" a "purge and a number of people were sacrificed," Fr Dizon said. "As far as I know also, there was an effort to compensate for that to the victims and their families."

Since 3 April, talks have stalled because of the arrest of an NPA official, Reynante Gamara, at a time when an amnesty was in place. For the government, he had participated in abductions and other murders and was arrested for those offences.

The priest is critical of President Benigno Aquino's lack of political strategy despite the pledges he made in the 2010 presidential election.

For instance, the president has failed to punish members of the military who use the anti-Communist fight to keep tensions high and claim higher appropriations from the government.

In some cases, elements within the military have carried extrajudicial killings and tortured civilians and activists who had complained about the military.

Fighting between the Filipino military and NPA Communist rebels goes back to 1968. Thousands have died over the past four decades and entire rural regions, especially in the central provinces, have seen their economy collapse.

The two sides have held talks on and off over the years. They collapsed in 2004 when the NPA was added to a list of terrorist groups. They were back on last March.

The NPA can field some 4,500 fighters. It controls 1,301 villages, mostly in the provinces of Marinduque, Bohol, Romblon, Lyte and Misamis, all in Visayas (central Philippines).

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