ON the day President Rody Duterte declared—in his July 25 SONA—a unilateral ceasefire in the government’s counter-insurgency operation against the Communist Party of the Philippines/National Democratic Front/New People’s Army, Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Ricardo Visaya declared the suspension of military operations (SOMO) against the communist rebels. Soon, the Philippine National Police top command also issued a SOMO order to all units nationwide.
Visaya on Monday ordered all commanders of unified commands, major services, and AFP-wide service support units to observe the SOMO against the communist rebels.
The SOMO ordered the cessation of all military offensives against the CPP/NDF/NPA, “including the conduct of combat maneuvers that may be construed as provocative acts that may be deemed [to be in violation]of the SOMO,” Visaya wrote in his directive, dated July 25.
The communist side’s leadership welcomed Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire order.
But yesterday, we learned that “the government military is treating the ceasefire and peace talks with communist rebels with ‘guarded optimism’ while hoping that the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the Communists will continue without constraints.”
Also yesterday, Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, Jr., spokesman of the AFP, told The Times that the Armed Forces of the Philippines “is also hopeful that the Communist Party of the Philippines, its political arm the National Democratic Front (NDF) and its armed wing New People’s Army (NPA) have the same aspiration that the government has for lasting peace to be attained for the sake of the Filipino people.”
Speaking in Tagalog, he said, “We are hoping that if the common aspiration is for the good of every Filipinos and our nation, then we should be one in that common aspiration and how to attain and fulfill it.”
Padilla gave the assurance that the government military fully supports Duterte’s desire for lasting peace in our country. He gave the good news that since the President made his unilateral ceasefire declaration in his SONA last Monday there has not been any fighting, not even a skirmish, between the communist rebels and government forces.
He added, “These are good signs, these are very good indications. If these will continue, it’s good that the other side also treats this as a good development, then we are in the right path toward starting the formal talks.”
The AFP chief of staff said the road to peace is a very difficult challenge for both sides, and he promised that the AFP will do everything to make it succeed.
What about the NPA’s response
Jorge Madlos, or “Ka Oris,” the recently designated spokesperson of the NPA National Operational Command, said, “Under the direction of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the National Operational Command of the NPA orders all territorial and unit commands, including all units of people’s militias, to stay on active defense mode as we welcome the unilateral ceasefire declaration by GRP President Rodrigo Duterte and await its operational details.”
Madlos also said the active defense posture would be maintained while the NPA waits for the reciprocal ceasefire declaration from the CPP/NDF of the Philippines (NDFP).
At this writing (p.m. of Wednesday, July 27), the Communist Party/NDFP has not given the NPA the awaited ceasefire order.
It is, therefore, right for the AFP to remain on alert and treat the government’s unilateral ceasefire, and hopes for peace with “guarded optimism.”