January 23, 2018, 11:28 pm
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Duterte’s SOMO

CLEARLY an afterthought, President Duterte ordered the AFP to observe a suspension of military operations (SOMO) this Christmas time.

Inasmuch as the Islamist forces are in hibernation after their humiliating defeat in Marawi City, this SOMO is focused on military operations against the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Malacañng said the declaration of a ceasefire with communist rebels from Dec. 24 to Jan. 2, 2018 is “a gesture of goodwill” although the government has cancelled peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and declared both the CPP and the NPA as terrorist organizations.

According to presidential spokesman Harry Roque, the order was specifically for unilateral suspension of military operations only.

Roque said, “This unilateral ceasefire would lessen the apprehension of the public this Christmas season. We expect that the CPP-NPA-NDFP would do a similar gesture of goodwill.”

This development did not receive any positive acceptance from the ranks of known leaders of the Left.

CPP founder and NDFP political consultant Jose Maria Sison described the government ceasefire as a “gimmick and deception” and called on the NPA to be always on alert.

Edre Olalia, a legal consultant of the NDFP, said they welcome the SOMO but with an abundance of caution. He said, “This declaration is not totally unexpected though. But it is especially curious because it comes at the heels of the rebel movement’s standing openness to declare its own (ceasefire) even before the government has apparently stolen the thunder to make it appear that the latter is magnanimous despite incessant vicious and outrageous words against the former.”

We have said it before, and we are saying it again, that a ceasefire with the communist rebels will not amount to much. It would take days for any such directive to reach the armed rebels in the mountains and the countryside. Both sides could not leave their posts and then be back again to fight in just a couple of days. This makes the declaration of ceasefire just an excuse for media exposure.

Duterte himself admitted that he only ordered the SOMO because “I would want to celebrate Christmas with the rest of humankind or Filipinos without stress. I do not want to add strain to what people are now suffering.”

Sison said if there is no offensive or attacks on the part of the AFP, there would be no ambushes.

That would be better than any written directive from either side of the conflict.
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