PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte ordered on Wednesday the suspension of military operations against communist rebels from December 24 to January 2, 2018, going against the recommendation of his security officials.
“Christmas holds a special place in the hearts of our countrymen. This unilateral ceasefire would lessen the apprehension of the public this Christmas season,” Palace spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement.
Roque said the government expected the communists to follow suit and release its own ceasefire declaration.
“We expect that the CPP-NPA-NDFP would do a similar gesture of goodwill. In the observance of this occasion, we hope that all Filipinos would stand together as one nation and aspire for peace,” Roque said.
The CPP is the Communist Party of the Philippines. The NDFP or the National Democratic Front of the Philippines is its political arm and the NPA or the New People’s Army is its armed wing.
The President halted talks with the rebels in July following a series of attacks by the NPA against government forces. He also said he would not resume the talks unless the rebels stopped their extortion activities.
The fifth round of talks brokered by Norway was suspended on May 27 after the communist group’s order to guerrillas to intensify attacks on security forces, following the President’s imposition of martial law in Mindanao to combat Islamic State-linked terrorists who attacked Marawi City.
Duterte officially terminated negotiations with the communist rebels in November, citing their supposed failure to show sincerity in pursuing the peace process.
On December 5, Duterte declared the NPA and CPP as terrorist groups, under Proclamation 374.
No DND recommendation
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Wednesday welcomed the declaration of President Duterte of a suspension of military operations (SOMO) against the communists for 10 days during Christmas.
“We will follow the directive of the President,” Lorenzana said in a news conference in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.
Lorenzana said he did not recommend a ceasefire declaration.
“I was actually adamant [on this]. I did not recommend for the cessation of military operations against the CPP-NPA,” he said.
“But if the President declared so, then we are going to implement and abide by the directive of the President,” Lorenzana added.
On December 5, Lorenzana said he was not inclined to recommend a SOMO with the communist fighters, citing information that commanders of the NPA have ordered their cadres to intensify offensives against government forces.
A ceasefire during the holidays is a tradition among the military and communist fighters in the countryside. The CPP will mark its 49th anniversary on December 26.
A bilateral ceasefire was declared last year to give way to the peace talks between the government and the NDF.
Police follow suit
The Philippine National Police (PNP) also said it would the ceasefire directive of the President.
“The corresponding memo circular will be issued soonest so that all PNP units, offices and stations will be guided accordingly,” said Chief Supt. Dionardo Carlos, the PNP spokesman.
Prior to the ceasefire order, the PNP was set for an offensive against the NPA just ahead of the anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
WITH RJ CARBONELL