MANILA – Malacañang on Friday welcomed the New People’s Army’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire during the holiday season and expressed hopes the communist rebels would stay true to their word.
“The Palace welcomes the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army’s (CPP-NPA) declaration of a unilateral ceasefire with the government in observance of the Filipino people’s traditional holidays,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.
“We expect that the CPP-NPA would honor their word and comply with the unilateral ceasefire so that our people could truly experience a peaceful Christmas celebration.”
The NPA's announcement followed President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration of a unilateral ceasefire which will take effect from 6 p.m. on December 23 to 11:59 p.m. on December 26, and from 6 p.m. on December 30 until 11:59 p.m. on January 2, 2018.
The NPA's declaration covers similar dates but shorter periods: from 6 p.m. on December 23 (Saturday) to 6 p.m. on December 26 (Tuesday), and from 6 p.m. on December 30 (Saturday) to 6 p.m. on January 2, 2018 (Tuesday).
"During this period, all NPA units and people’s militias shall cease and desist from carrying out offensive military campaigns and operations against the uniformed armed personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and its paramilitaries, and the Philippine National Police (PNP) of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines," a statement posted on the Philippine Revolution Web Central website read.
The NPA, however, shall remain on "active defensive mode" during the ceasefire, and will continue to "enforce policies and laws of the people’s democratic government, perform necessary and appropriate functions of governance, and mobilize the people and resources in territories under its authority."
CPP founding chair Jose Maria Sison earlier called the ceasefire a “sham” and said the NPA would remain on alert "against deception."
Roque said Duterte decided to declare a ceasefire "precisely because he wants Filipinos to feel safer during the holiday season.” But, he said, government troops would also remain vigilant during the ceasefire period.
The unilateral ceasefire, which the government declares annually over the holidays, comes amid tensions between the state and the communist movement in the wake of the recent collapse of peace negotiations.
Despite the ceasefire declaration, the Armed Forces of the Philippines still considers communist rebels as terrorists, military Chief of Staff Rey Leonardo Guerrero said.
"To be on active defense, of course, and to make sure we continue protecting 'yung mga communities natin," Guerrero told reporters Friday.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana added that the suspension military operations would also give soldiers time to spend the holidays with their families.
"They can also celebrate Christmas with their families also, siguro bigyan din natin ang mga NPA na makauwi sa mga bahay-bahay nila ngayon," he said.