DEFENSE Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces chief Gen. Felimon Santos Jr on Thursday told soldiers to be on alert for possible attacks by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels during the government’s ceasefire with the communists, which started yesterday and will last up to April 15.
President Duterte declared the ceasefire on Wednesday night amid the government efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The President has ordered a Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine from Tuesday to April 12.
Jose Maria Sison, founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines and chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, said the communist movement has yet to see a need to reciprocate the government declaration.
Santos, on the declaration, said, “We have been through ceasefire declarations in the past where the NPA disregards government’s good faith.”
The last time the government had a unilateral truce with the communists was during the Yuletide season. The military accused the rebels of mounting attacks against the military and civilians during the truce, which the communist reciprocated.
“While I direct the troops to observe guarded optimism, your AFP will not be deterred by similar treacherous attacks by the communist terrorist group. We will be there where and when we are needed,” said Santos.
Lorenzana said the defense and military establishment will “strictly” implement the unilateral ceasefire. However, he said the communist movement has a bloody track record of using the government’s declarations of ceasefire to launch offensives, ambuscades, destruction of government and private property, extortion activities as well as to recover their dwindling numbers and create a false perception that they still have influence and relevance.”
Lorenzana said the DND and the AFP have seen, time and again, the communists’ “blatant disregard for the plight of our fellow Filipinos who, especially in trying times, need the help of our brave defenders.”
Lorenzana directed the AFP to suspend all offensive combat operations against the communists but continue “normal law enforcement operations,” in coordination with the PNP, “in order to maintain peace and order” and continued rehabilitation of rebels who returned to the government fold.
“I also remind our security forces to remain vigilant, and ready to defend themselves and the communities in their respective areas of responsibility against those who will take advantage of the nationwide state of calamity to advance their selfish cause,” said Lorenzana.
The military is at the forefront of the fight against the NPA which has about 3,500 fighters. Peace negotiations between the government and the communists remain stalled.
Gen. Archie Gamboa, chief of the PNP which is playing a support role in the counter-insurgency campaign, said: “All national, regional, provincial and district police maneuver units engaged in internal security operations have been placed on defensive posture and have shifted operations to disaster response and public safety mode to enforce the enhanced Luzon-wide community quarantine to contain the spread of COVID-19 upon the government’s declaration of a national state of calamity, ” said Gamboa.
Duterte on Tuesday urged the communists to go on a ceasefire with government amid the efforts to contain the virus. Sison then asked Duterte to make a formal offer.
Sison on Thursday said the ceasefire declaration is “premature, if not insincere and false.”
From the NDFP’s point of view, Sison said, “there is yet no clear basis for the NDFP to reciprocate the aforesaid declaration of the GRP.”
“Unless it receives sufficient assurances from the GRP, the NDFP will be inclined to think that the GRP unilateral ceasefire declaration is not sincere and is not intended to invite reciprocation by the NDFP but is meant to be a mere psywar trick,” said Sison.