MANILA - The offensive operation against the New People's Army (NPA) is set to resume tomorrow, a day after the state and pastoral visit of Pope Francis, the military said.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines started its ceasefire last December 18.
The Communist Party of the Philippines did not fully reciprocate the government’s move, but set its ceasefire from December 24 to 26, December 31 to January 1, and during the papal events from January 15 until today.
In extending the ceasefire to the pope’s visit, the CPP said it was an "opportunity for religious celebration and to raise outstanding issues such as military abuses and violations of human rights and children’s rights, Hacienda Luisita and widespread landlessness, poverty and exploitation of peasants and workers, bureaucratic corruption and government neglect of calamity survivors and the poor."
The military, on the other hand, helped in securing Pope Francis.
AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said: “With the termination of the [Suspension of Military Operations], we will be back with our focused military operations against specific armed groups threatening peace and development in rural areas.”
“We will continue with what we’ve been doing. We will continue to enforce law enforcement operations then go after criminals and then implement our target objective for the year in line with Oplan Bayanihan,” Armed Forces spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla added.
He said the military observed the ceasefire, contrary to allegations from the Reds.
“Well, show proof… Soldiers stayed at their posts in all areas since the start of the SOMO. They didn’t move, they did not go on offensive operation. They just went on defensive operation,” he said.
Cabunoc also slammed the communists for putting the blame on the military for delaying the release of three policemen abducted by the NPA in Surigao del Norte last November.
“Obviously, they wanted to drive a wedge between the AFP and the PNP which had shown an effective collaboration in addressing the social issues in the local communities that had been exploited by the (communists) in the past,” he said.
He said the communists lost the opportunity to show support for Pope Francis’ message of mercy and compassion.