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Christmas ceasefire from December 23 to January 1

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – In the spirit of Christmas, the government will suspend offensive military operations against communist rebels from Dec. 23 to Jan. 1.

President Aquino approved the Department of National Defense’s recommendation for a unilateral suspension of military operations (SOMO) against the New People’s Army (NPA) during the holidays.

The President’s approval was sent by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Thursday.

Last year, the government declared a longer unilateral ceasefire, from Dec. 18 until Jan. 19 because of the visit of Pope Francis.

The SOMO also paved the way for unhampered rehabilitation of calamity-affected communities, many of which were affected by armed conflict.

Two soldiers were wounded when an Army convoy on their way back from delivering relief goods in typhoon-ravaged Eastern Samar were ambushed by suspected NPA guerrillas in Pinabacdao, Samar yesterday morning.

Initial reports said the ambush happened around 7:30 a.m. when the rebels attacked an M35 military truck and two other trucks. 

The Army trucks were marked with a local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) tarpaulin and were carrying members of the 546th Engineering Battalion and 8th Infantry Division Reconnaissance Co.

The military convoy was negotiating a sharp curve on the Maharlika Highway between Barangays Madalunot and Pahug when they were ambushed.

The soldiers fired back and the ensuing firefight temporarily closed the highway as police and military reinforcement troops rushed to the area.

Capt. Isagani Viernes, acting chief of the 8th ID public affairs office, said the trucks were supposed to pick up another batch of relief goods intended for Northern Samar, which was also devastated by the typhoon, after the Eastern Samar relief mission. 

Earlier this month, two soldiers of the 14th Infantry Battalion were killed and NPA rebels that ambushed the troopers along the highway in Catbalogan City took the unit’s monthly food allowance worth P1.8 million.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and the military yesterday condemned the attack against soldiers who delivered relief goods to typhoon victims in Eastern Samar.

The ambush happened three days after the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) declared a unilateral truce that will take effect from Dec. 23 to Jan. 3 next year.

Two employees of the social welfare department were with the soldiers in the M35 military truck and two other trucks.

“Magkaroon sana kayo ng kunsensya (I hope you have a conscience),” NDRRMC executive director Alexander Pama said, referring to the suspected NPA rebels that staged the ambush.

“Whatever foolishness you are thinking, take time out from it. We are working hard here but some people who lack attention are intervening,” he added.

The soldiers and social welfare personnel transported goods to Eastern Samar and were on their way back to the Office of the Civil Defense Region 8 in Tacloban City when the ambush happened.

A 15-minute firefight ensued after the ambush, leaving two soldiers wounded. Aurea Calica, Alexis Romero, Ricky Bautista

 

ACIRC ALEXANDER PAMA ALEXIS ROMERO AUREA CALICA BARANGAYS MADALUNOT AND PAHUG CATBALOGAN CITY COMMUNIST PARTY OF THE PHILIPPINES DEFENSE SECRETARY VOLTAIRE GAZMIN DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL DEFENSE EASTERN SAMAR JAN
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