MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government is poised to forego traditional holiday ceasefire with communist rebels as clashes intensify following President Rodrigo Duterte’s Proclamation 360, formally ending the peace talks.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he will not recommend a declaration of suspension of military operations (SOMO) this year.
“I will not [recommend SOMO]. Because there was an order by their commanders to intensify operations against us. If we declare SOMO and we will stand down, they will attack us again,” Lorenzana said on Tuesday, December 5.
“We can always break tradition,” he said.
The military traditionally declares a SOMO during the holidays, which is also reciprocated by the communist rebels.
Last year, the holidays were covered by separate unilateral ceasefires declared by both sides in support of the peace talks. The declarations of unilateral ceasefire were lifted in February 2017 following incidents of armed clashes in Mindanao – the beginnings of the collapse of the talks.
In recent weeks, incidents of armed encounters between the military and communist rebels increased. Armed Forces chief General Rey Guerrero said this is “expected” because troops deployed to Marawi have been deployed to areas “troubled by NPAs.”
“It’s part of our intensified focused military operations in response to the atrocities we’ve seen on the ground. The NPA stepped up atrocities nationwide. This is our response,” Guerrero said. – Rappler.com