The military has recorded more than 60 incidents of arson perpetrated by the New People's Army in the last 2 months, Armed Forces spokesperson Major Gen. Restituto Padilla said Monday.
This figure roughly translates to one burning incident a day from February 4 to March 31, according to Padilla.
It is for this reason that AFP Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año calls on the public not to support the NPA, which he calls "communist-terrorists."
"National growth has been impeded by the acts of masquerading ideologues who have degenerated into plain terrorists and extortionists," said Año in a statement read by Padilla.
"This is among the reasons why the government cannot agree to a unilateral ceasefire. The 'communist-terrorists' have taken advantage of the ceasefire period."
The AFP said unilateral ceasefires, like the ones declared by both the NPA and the AFP, are faulty due to the absence of a mechanism that can hold both parties accountable for their actions.
Furthermore, a unilateral ceasefire is unstable in that an implementing party can lift it at a moment's notice, as what the New People's Army did on February 1.
The AFP said the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) lacks sincerity in their refusal to sign a joint ceasefire agreement, with the precondition to stop all extortion activities.
"Ang refusal nila sa pagpirma, lumalabas na vested interest lamang ang binabantayan nila," said Padilla.
In the absence of such an agreement, Padilla reiterated that military operations against the NPA will continue.
"Hangga’t wala pong lagdaan sa isang joint ceasefire agreement na may nakalatag na mekanismo para panatilihin at siguraduhin na mamamayagpag ang ceasefire period na ito, hindi po tayo magsususpindi ng military operation at police operation."
For his part, Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate, vice-chair of the House Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, criticized Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana for labeling the New People's Army as "terrorist."
"This name-calling and militarist labeling does not help the fourth round of the peace negotiations that is about to start today here in the Netherlands and is only spoiling the positive strides made by both the GRP and the NDFP in the current stage of the peace process," said Zarate.
"As it is now, there is no simultaneous unilateral ceasefires declared by the AFP and the NPA and a bilateral ceasefire is yet to be discussed in the current talks. In fact, there is no let up in the AFP's counterinsurgency operations, including bombing runs, in many parts of the country," noted Rep. Zarate, citing that even GRP Peace panel head Sec. Silvestre 'Bebot' Bello even admitted that skirmishes and NPA activities should be expected because there is no ceasefire.
Zarate said both the GRP and NDFP panels, as well as peace advocates, should ignore militarist statements coming from Lorenzana or the AFP spokesperson "since the same do not advance the cause for a just peace in the country." With a report by RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News