“The President has directed the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government, together with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), to cease and desist from carrying out offensive military and police operations during the ceasefire period,” Panelo said in a statement issued Wednesday night.
STAR/ File
Duterte declares unilateral ceasefire with Reds
Artemio Dumlao, Emmanuel Tupas, Alexis Romero, Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - March 20, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte has formally declared a ceasefire with communist rebels to ensure the unhampered deployment of health workers and delivery of medical assistance to areas affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the unilateral ceasefire with the communists would be in effect from March 19 to April 15.

“The President has directed the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government, together with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), to cease and desist from carrying out offensive military and police operations during the ceasefire period,” Panelo said in a statement issued Wednesday night.

“Through this ceasefire, the Philippine government aspires that the swift provision of public health assistance goes unimpeded with the movement of health workers and medical supplies to communities, as well as to people in need of immediate medical attention,” Panelo added.

The defense and interior departments, he said, would issue orders to implement the suspension of offensive military and police operations.

Duterte expressed his intention to declare a ceasefire with the rebels on March 17, the day he announced the implementation of an enhanced
community quarantine in Luzon.
“The problem is not everyone loves this government. Did you, the NPA (New People’s Army) members, love the government? If not, at least cooperate,” Duterte said.
“Distancing and do not touch my soldiers. Let’s observe a ceasefire for now. I am asking you for a ceasefire.”

But Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Maria Sison described the declaration of a unilateral truce as bereft of any basis for reciprocation by the National Democratic Front (NDF).

As NDF chief political consultant, Sison claimed that the lockdown on the whole of Luzon is meant not to fight COVID-19 pandemic but to intimidate the people and to suppress democratic rights.

“There is communication going on between the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels. But there is yet no agreement for reciprocal unilateral ceasefires in connection with certain considerations, requirement and modalities,” Sison said, adding “there has to be catch-up on these matters, if still possible.”

He said the ceasefire declaration by the government or the Duterte regime is premature, if not insincere and false.

“Unless it receives sufficient assurances from the (government), the NDFP will be inclined to think that the unilateral ceasefire declaration is not sincere and not intended to invite reciprocation by the NDFP, but is meant to be a mere psywar trick,” Sison said.

He said the lack of sincerity of the government in seeking a ceasefire with the NDFP was manifested in many ways, like in the “militarist lockdown” of the whole of Luzon.

Military suspends offensives

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana ordered the AFP to temporarily suspend all offensives and combat operations against insurgents across the country.

“The DND will strictly implement the President’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) from March 19 to April 15,” Lorenzana said.

However, given the NPA track record of using the government’s unilateral ceasefire to their advantage, Lorenzana directed the AFP leadership to continue with their normal law enforcement operations in coordination with the PNP.

This stance, he said, is aimed at ensuring peace and order in every community across the country against possible criminal activities of the insurgents and other lawless groups.

“I am also reminding 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,” Lorenzana said.

The PNP also suspended tactical operations against communist rebels in response to the unilateral ceasefire.

PNP chief Gen. Archie Francisco Gamboa said the suspension of hostilities until April 15 would cover members of the CPP-NPA-NDF.

“All national, regional, provincial and district police maneuver units engaged in internal security operations have been placed on defensive posture and shifted operations to disaster response and public safety mode to enforce the enhanced Luzon-wide community quarantine,” Gamboa said in a statement.

He ordered police commanders to maintain vigilance for possible attacks from communist insurgents and other lawless groups.

With the temporary truce with communist rebels, Gamboa said their maneuver forces would be fully utilized for quarantine and general public safety operations.

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