DAVAO CITY – After rejecting President Rodrigo Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire and blaming him for the spread of the deadly coronavirus disease in the Philippines, communist rebels now declared a 21-day truce effective Thursday.
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said the truce was in response not to Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire, but as a “direct response to the call of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for a global ceasefire between warring parties for the common purpose of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.”
It said the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, CPP’s political wing, recommended the ceasefire from March 26 until April 15. During the truce, all New People’s Army (NPA) rebel forces and its civilian militias shall cease and desist from carrying out offensive military operations against government security forces, according to CPP.
But it also reminded NPA forces to “stay vigilant and be ready to act in self-defense against any tactical offensives or any hostile actions or movements contrary to the ceasefire order launched by any enemy force against the people and revolutionary forces in the guerrilla fronts of the people’s democratic government.”
It said rebel forces may take active-defense operations only in the face of clear and imminent danger and armed attacks by government troops and ordered the NPA and its militias to closely monitor any hostile actions being carried out by state forces.
“This ceasefire order shall take effect immediately and is not dependent on the issuance of the suspension of military operations and suspension of police operations issued or to be issued by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines,” CPP said.
It said the ceasefire is to ensure and facilitate necessary, unhampered and immediate medical, health and economic assistance, support and movement of the people brought about by the exigencies of the current Covid-19 worldwide pandemic that has affected a growing number of Filipinos.
The CPP also demanded anew the release of all jailed rebels across the country and grant amnesty to all of them. “This ceasefire is also a gesture towards national unity and based on humanitarian principles in the context of the serious public emergency to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all. Consistent with these context and considerations, the NDFP demands as a matter of justice and necessity that all political prisoners be released forthwith and a general amnesty be issued.”
“The ceasefire may potentially contribute as well towards a positive atmosphere conducive to the eventual holding of informal talks preparatory to the formal meeting to resume the peace negotiations,” it added.
Duterte’s spokesman, Salvador Panelo, said the recommendation of Jose Maria Sison, CPP’s founding chairman, to issue a declaration of a ceasefire addressed to the NPA, is a positive development.
“At this crucial time, the Filipino people deserve and need a safe and peaceful environment where there is unimpeded movement of health workers, medical supplies, food and other needs and services, in view of the current state of calamity and public health emergency. We therefore welcome the cooperation of all, including those in the Left, to realize our goal of absolute peace during these times,” he said.
“As Mr. Sison proposes concord to be realized during this global health crisis, it is also our hope that their group’s armed component on the ground would show genuine sincerity in laying down their arms and not use the occasion to mobilize their forces. The Palace looks forward that they would make good and stay true to their words,” Panelo added.
Just recently, NDFP peace negotiator Fidel Agcaoili, accused Duterte of using the health crisis as a cover for militarist rule and blamed him for the spread of the coronavirus disease in the country that has infected over 300 and killed more than a dozen more.
The virus, now a global pandemic, broke out in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December last year, and quickly spread to over 100 countries with China recording over 81,000 infections and more than 3,200 deaths.
“Duterte and his fascist minions should stop manipulating the Covid-19 emergency in the Philippines to push their militarist and anti-people agenda and shortcut their fascist dream to govern the country martial law-style,” Agcaoili said.
He said Duterte ignored warnings not to allow Chinese tourists into the Philippines even though the virus wreak havoc in China and spread outside its borders.
“In February, while the Duterte regime had allowed the entry into the country of hundreds of thousands of Chinese tourists, including those from Wuhan, and ignored the grave implication of the death of the first victim in the Philippines, the revolutionary forces have been closely monitoring developments in the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.”
“As the virus started to wreak havoc in China and began to spread outside China's borders, immediately the revolutionary movement through its National Health Bureau has been busy organizing and mobilizing revolutionary health committees from the national down to the village levels to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in their areas, and check on the people's health,” he said.
Rebel forces have been fighting the democratic government for many decades now in a violent campaign to establish a communist state in the Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner)
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