BY VICTOR REYES and JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR
COMMUNIST leader Jose Maria “Joma” Sison on Tuesday advised the National Democratic Front of the Philippines-National Council to declare a ceasefire with the government amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sison, in his capacity as NDFP chief political consultant, said he issued the advice “in order to respond to the call of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for a global ceasefire between warring parties for the common purpose of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.”
“The NDFP and the broad masses of the people themselves need to refrain from launching tactical offensives to gain more time and opportunity to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and to look after the health and overall welfare of the people in both urban and rural areas,” said Sison.
Malacañang said it was about time the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front joined the country’s efforts to contain COVID-19.
“At this crucial time, the Filipino people deserve and need a safe and peaceful environment where there is unimpeded movement of health workers, medical supplies, food and other needs and services, in view of the current state of calamity and public health emergency. We therefore welcome the cooperation of all, including those in the Left, to realize our goal of absolute peace during these times,” said Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, concurrent presidential spokesman.
Panelo also said government is hoping that the NPA would follow and “show genuine sincerity in laying down their arms and not use the occasion to mobilize their forces.”
Sison said while the NPA can “cease and desist” from launching offensives against government forces, “it must be vigilant and be ready to act in self-defense against any tactical offensive launched by any enemy force against the people and revolutionary forces in the guerrilla fronts of the people’s democratic government.”
President Duterte has declared a unilateral truce with the communist movement from March 19 to April 15 as military and police forces are focused on preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
Sison said government forces have persisted in launching tactical offensives and bombing of communities, thus the NDFP had not reciprocated the government’s “false unilateral ceasefire.”
Another reason for not reciprocating the ceasefire, he said, is “to avoid appearing as directly condoning and becoming complicit in the criminal culpabilities of the Duterte regime for allowing the COVID-19 to spread nationwide since January, for making no preparations against the pandemic and for making lockdowns on communities and yet failing to provide mass testing and treatment of the sick, food assistance and compensation for those prevented from work.”
Commenting on the UN’s call for a global ceasefire, AFP chief Gen. Felimon Santos Jr said: “We could not agree more with the UN secretary general’s call for a global ceasefire.”
Santos noted the that the government has already declared a unilateral ceasefire. “And the AFP, from its leadership down to the last element on the ground, adheres to it religiously,” said Santos.
Santos said the military has trained its focus “on this virulent but unseen enemy” which has infected about 500 people in the country.
“We will press on and assist government’s campaign to save our people from this deadly disease. We will not be deterred by the threat of attacks on our troops by this internationally acclaimed communist terrorist group,” said Santos.