Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief-of-Staff Gen. Noel Clement has directed all front-line military unit commanders to intensify their intelligence-gathering activities to foil possible attacks of communist rebels during the holiday truce.
“Front-line unit commanders are ordered to be extra vigilant and their personnel very cautious and intensify intelligence gathering about possible attacks as they conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster response during calamities or other non-combat missions from quarters who are out to sabotage the truce during the period,” military spokesman Marine Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said in a statement Monday.
The ceasefire took effect midnight on Monday and will end at 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 7 next year.
Clement also ordered all field commanders to faithfully observe the unilateral and reciprocal ceasefire with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front declared by President Rodrigo R. Duterte.
“We exercise guarded optimism and assure our people that the AFP will be, as always, faithful to its commitment to peace. We sternly warn violators to this armistice that we will deal with them under military rules and regulations,” Arevalo said.
Units of the AFP were ordered to stop all combat operations targeting the NPA in their hideouts.
However, patrols intended to secure military bases and camps, as well as the communities within their areas of responsibility, are allowed.
“They may enforce arrest of persons who are illegally bearing firearms and doing unlawful acts like arson, extortion, and the like,” Arevalo added.
Police in Eastern Visayas will remain on full alert status throughout the holiday season despite the declaration of a ceasefire between the government and the communist rebels.
“Based on our experience, we cannot afford to be relaxed. We will continue to be proactive and reactive,” said Col. Marvin Manuel Pepino, acting deputy regional director for administration of Police Regional Office (PRO)-Eastern Visayas.
Pepino said that their personnel are already in position in all areas of convergence round-the-clock, with the priority to secure the public during this Christmas season.
“We have already prepared our security operation in order to thwart any attack,” the official said, recalling the Dec. 13 ambush by suspected NPA in Borongan City, Eastern Samar, which killed a policeman, three civilians, and injured 11 other people.
On Monday, Davao City Mayor and presidential daughter Sara Z. Duterte cautioned the government against reopening talks with communist rebels after a string of deadly attacks believed to have been perpetrated by the NPA.
In a statement on Monday, the mayor also asked the national government to exclude Davao City from the Christmas truce, which began on Dec. 23 and would last until Jan. 7 next year.
“We respectfully caution the Duterte administration over its move to reopen the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP),” she said, warning the government of the “evil character and duplicitous nature” of the communist rebel movement.
“While the declaration of (the) Christmas truce and the prospects to reopen formal peace negotiations are acts of goodwill on the part of the Duterte government, demonstrating its strong political will to resolve the insurgency problem plaguing some parts of the country for the past years, we must be always reminded by the evil character and duplicitous nature of (the) NDFP and its revolutionary organization, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA),” Mayor Sarathe mayor added.
Hours after the ceasefire went into effect, suspected NPA bomb attacks in Iloilo and Camarines Norte killed a soldier and wounded at least eight others.
Maj. Gen. Fernando Trinidad, commander of Joint Task Force Bicolandia, blamed the NPA for the “treacherous” attack that occurred while members of the Philippine Army’s 92nd Division Reconnaissance Company were withdrawing from initial deployment.
Mayor Duterte said that previous deadly attacks carried out by the NPA had effectively scuttled the prospects for peace negotiations. With PNA