By Roy Ramos
ZAMBOANGA CITY, the Philippines (AA) – Communist insurgents killed a policeman and wounded two others in an ambush Sunday morning, seemingly ignoring peace overtures made by incoming Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.
The state-run Philippines News Agency reported that the officer suffered gunshot and shrapnel wounds in the incident believe to be staged by New People's Army (NPA) rebels in the central province of Masbate around 5.40 a.m. (2340GMT Saturday).
The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
Police information officer Sr. Insp. Ma. Luisa Calubaquib said that the dead man was one of several officers returning to their station after investigating a report a body had been found along the national highway in Gangao, Baleno town when rebels set off an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) which hit their patrol vehicle.
Assailants then peppered the vehicle with bullets, causing its driver to lose control and crash into a concrete wall.
Calubaquib said that while one man died and two others were injured, other officers in the vehicle managed to return fire and engaged the rebels in a brief firefight until reinforcements arrived, forcing the attackers to withdraw.
The attack comes amid peace overtures by Duterte in the aftermath of his May 9 presidential election victory.
He has promised the CPP that he will release all political prisoners if party leaders return from exile and sit down for peace negotiations.
Earlier this month he also offered the CPP posts in his new government to smooth the way to peace.
Peace negotiations with the CPP -- and its political wing, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) -- collapsed in 2004 after the communists withdrew from the negotiating table on account of the renewed inclusion of exiled CPP founding chairman Jose Maria Sison and its armed wing on the United States list of foreign terrorist organizations .
The group was also included on the U.S terror list last week.
In 2014, negotiations again failed because outgoing President Benigno Aquino III turned down the rebels' demand to release detained comrades -- accusing the rebels of insincerity in efforts to achieve a political settlement.
Since March 1969, the NPA has been waging one of Asia’s longest running insurgencies in the country, which -- according to the military -- has claimed more than 3,000 lives over the past eight years.
The military estimates that the number of NPA members has dropped from a peak of 26,000 in the 1980s to less than 4,000.
Duterte is set to assume office June 30.