MANILA - (UPDATED) The New People's Army announced Wednesday that it has withdrawn its 5-month long unilateral ceasefire with the government, but promised to continue supporting ongoing peace negotiations between the state and communist rebels.
In a statement released on its website, the NPA it will notify the Duterte administration Wednesday of the termination of the interim ceasefire declared last August 28.
"With this declaration and notice, the August 28 unilateral ceasefire shall effectively expire on 11:59 p.m. of February 10," the group said.
NPA spokesperson Jorge "Ka Oris" Madlos cited two reasons for the ending the truce: the Duterte administration's failure to release 200 political prisoners, and the alleged military advances of NPA-held areas.
Madlos explained that the NPA issued the ceasefire last August 28 on the understanding that the government would free political detainees within 60 days.
The Duterte administration, he said, failed to do this even after the NPA extended the truce for another 150 days.
Madlos also alleged that the military has "treacherously taken advantage" of the ceasefire to conduct "hostile actions and offensive operations" in areas occupied by the NPA.
"They have subjected entire barrios to their armed presence and have committed widespread violations of human rights, such as occupation of people’s homes, barangay halls, day care centers and other civilian structures. People have suffered threats, intimidation and harassment by AFP soldiers in their barrios," he said.
ORDERS TO 'PUNISH' STATE OPS
With the lifting of the ceasefire, Madlos said NPA fighters are tasked to "counteract, frustrate and punish" all state operations in their areas.
"They must counteract, frustrate and punish AFP-CAFGU-PNP interior patrol operations, AFP psywar operations under Oplan Kapayapaan, AFP units occupying barangays and communities and enemy armed offensives posing as anti-drug and anti-crime operations," he said.
All NPA units were also directed to "take full initiative in planning, coordinating and carrying out military campaigns and tactical offensives" against soldiers, policemen, the "various paramilitary units and death squads of the Duterte government," drug traffickers, private armed groups, and spies.
The NPA and government had declared ceasefires to promote efforts to hammer out a permanent peace pact.
A 3rd round of peace talks between the 2 parties ended in Rome, Italy last week with no deal on a joint and permanent ceasefire.
Both sides agreed to meet for a fourth round of formal talks in Oslo April 2-6. Officials dealing specifically with the ceasefire issue will meet again sooner, in Utrecht in the Netherlands on February 22-27.
CONTINUING SUPPORT FOR PEACE TALKS
According to Madlos, the NPA continues to support peace negotiations even as it terminated its unilateral ceasefire.
"In our experience and in the experience of other peoples, it is possible to negotiate while fighting until the substantive agreements are forged to address the roots of the armed conflict and lay the basis for a just and lasting peace," he said.
ABS-CBN News is still trying to reach Duterte's office for comment.
The military however earlier accused NPA rebels of violating its own ceasefire declaration on several incidents, including the the fatal ambush of 2 soldiers in Isabela, a shootout with soldiers, and alleged extortion attempts on civilians.