The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Tuesday said it has not received any recommendation to observe a unilateral ceasefire with communist rebels during the Christmas season.
Meanwhile, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. placed the Special Action Force (SAF) and all 17 Regional Mobile Force Battalions (RMFB) on high alert against possible attacks by communist rebels in light of the 54th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
Azurin said however, that there would be no muzzling of police firearms this year, saying he is confident that they would not fire these during the holiday revelry.
“I am not aware of the recommendation. The most that we can do is to declare SOMO (suspension offensive military operation) and move to active defense, especially in areas where the insurgents are already weak,” AFP spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar told reporters.
However, Aguilar expressed optimism that the New People’s Army (NPA) leaders would allow their men to go home and spend the holidays with their families.
Aguilar also said the furlough would give the insurgents time to ponder their future and their families living in peace.
“We pray that the insurgents will also be allowed to go to their families and think about their future,” Aguilar said.
“We hope that come New Year, their resolution will be to abandon armed struggle and all forms of violence that destroy human lives and properties,” he said.
AFP chief Lt. Gen. Bartolome Vicente Bacarro honored fallen troops of the 5th Infantry Division (5ID) during his visit to the unit’s headquarters in Camp Melchor Dela Cruz, Upi, Gamu, Isabela on Monday.
Bacarro presided at a wreath-laying ceremony as part of his visit to the 5ID, and acknowledged the unit’s “contribution to peace, security, and development” in its area of operation.
“His visit also aimed to inspire the 5ID personnel, especially those who cannot be with their family during this Yuletide Season. He was welcomed by Brig. Gen Audrey Pasia, acting 5th Infantry Division commander, other officers, non-commissioned officers, and civilian human resources,” AFP public affairs office chief Col. Jorry Baclor said.
Bacarro commended the Army division for its notable accomplishments.
“Let me convey to you the continuing downtrend of the enemy in this area. This is manifested in your individual and collective contribution. Looking at the matrix of 5th Infantry Division, the enemy has significantly weakened in terms of firepower, their number, support coming from the community, and their ability to generate funds,” he added.
Azurin issued the alert order during the year-end PNP command conference attended by ranking SAF and RMFB, as well as heads and other officials of various police units nationwide. The conference took place at Camp Crame in Quezon City on Monday afternoon.
“(All) SAF and 17 RMFBs nationwide will be put to highest alert for any possible tactical engagements and harassments against government forces as the CPP marks its 54th anniversary on Dec. 26, 2022,” he added.
Other highlights of the briefing included the presentation of updates on the security situation and threat assessment and forecast for the Yuletide Season, national crime situation and updates on rape cases, operational accomplishments, Revitalized Kasimbayanan Project, updates on crime situation, anti-crime efforts and deployment during Christmas holidays.
“The successful outcome of the major events that unfolded during the year is the result of sheer hard work, careful planning and preparation by PNP units,” Azurin added.
He also said the challenge for the PNP now is to sustain its gains and prevent criminals from taking advantage of the holiday season when increased economic activities are expected.
He also reminded all commanders to be on the lookout for indiscriminate firing before, during, and after the holidays.
However, he said no personnel would be spared if they would engage in indiscriminate firing while their immediate superiors would also be held accountable.
As this developed, the Philippine Army (PA) on Monday said troops from the 70th Infantry Battalion, a field unit of the 7th Infantry Division, along with police personnel, arrested a ranking CPP-New People’s Army (NPA) secretary in a joint operation in Barangay Muzon, San Jose del Monte City, Bulacan on Dec. 8.
Nabbed was CPP-NPA leader identified as Janeth Cruz also known as “Aryang”, “Libay” “Ditsy”, “Laura”, “Frankie”, “Trixie”, “Ali” and “Marbel”.
Cruz was the secretary of the CPP-NPA’s Central Luzon Regional Committee (CLRC), Regional White Area Committee, who is on trial for murder and two counts of attempted murder at the Iba, Zambales Regional Trial Court Branch 71.
PA chief Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. lauded the 70th Infantry Battalion and its PNP counterpart for their effort which led to Cruz’s capture.