with VICTOR REYES
PRESIDENT Duterte has declared a unilateral ceasefire with the communist rebels from March 19 to April 15 amid the implementation of an enhanced community quarantine in Luzon as part of efforts to contain the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, concurrent presidential spokesman, said the unilateral ceasefire with the Communist Party of the Philippines-the New People’s Army-the National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF), will be effective “00:00H of March 19, 2020 to 24:00H of April 15, 2020.”
Sought for comment on the ceasefire declaration, AFP chief Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. said, “We are still waiting directive from DND.”
Panelo said the President has directed the Department of National Defense, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Philippine National Police to “cease and desist from carrying out offensive military and police operations during the ceasefire period.”
He said the DND and DILG shall also issue the corresponding orders to implement the declaration of the unilateral ceasefire, including a suspension of offensive military and police operations (SOMO).
“Through this ceasefire, the Philippine government aspires that the swift provision of public health assistance goes unimpeded with the movement of health workers and medical supplies to communities, as well as of people in need of immediate medical attention remains unhampered,” Panelo said.
The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process was added as ex-oficio member of the Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease the other night after President Duterte placed the whole country under a state of calamity due to COVID-19.
The President earlier appealed to the communist rebels not to attack soldiers who have been tapped to help man the checkpoints.
The President in March 2019 ordered the permanent termination of peace talks at the national level and said that localized negotiations would instead be pursued. Prior to that, Duterte ordered a review of all the agreements forged with the communists.
In December last year, he said he is sending Labor Secretary and government negotiator Silvestre Bello III to the Netherlands to talk to communist leaders about the possible resumption of talks.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Tuesday said military operations against the NPA will take a backseat amid the efforts to prevent the spread of (COVID-19).
On Monday night after declaring a Luzon-wide community quarantine, President Duterte urged the communists to go on a ceasefire with the government while the government is busy containing the threat of the virus.
Communist party founding chairman Jose Maria “Joma” Sison on Tuesday told President Duterte to make a formal offer if he really wants a ceasefire with the communist movement while government forces are busy implementing a Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Sison, the chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, said the NDFP has received reports that the deployment of soldiers and policemen is not meant to help fight COVID-19 “but to suppress the people’s democratic movement in the urban areas.”