CPP-NPA ends ceasefire, resumes offensives vs government forces

JC Gotinga

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CPP-NPA ends ceasefire, resumes offensives vs government forces

Alecs Ongcal

(UPDATED) The truce failed to stop clashes between government troops and communist rebels, both sides admit

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Fighting between communist rebels and government troops did not actually stop during the coronavirus lockdown, but on Friday, May 1, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) officially ended its unilateral ceasefire, and ordered its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA) to resume offensives against state forces.

“The refusal of the Duterte regime to relent in its attacks against the NPA, despite calls for a ‘global ceasefire,’ has made the further extension of the NPA ceasefire impossible,” the party said on its official website.

The rebels claimed “unabated” counterinsurgency operations by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in different parts of the country during the government’s declared ceasefire from March 19 to April 15.

According to the CPP, 18 of its fighters and 31 government soldiers were killed in clashes over the past 36 days when their ceasefire was in place. Rappler verified these figures with the AFP, which said they “do not trust [the CPP-NPA’s] numbers.”

The government has also consistently blamed the CPP-NPA for skirmishes during the ceasefire, and it did not renew its declaration of a truce when it lapsed on April 15.

The CPP-NPA extended its unilateral ceasefire until April 30 when it lapsed on April 15, in keeping with the United Nations’ (UN) call for a global cessation of hostilities amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It was President Rodrigo Duterte who first broached a truce with the communist rebels on March 16, as he declared the “enhanced community quarantine” or lockdown of Luzon island, including the capital region, Metro Manila. He said the police and military needed to concentrate on enforcing the lockdown.

The CPP-NPA initially hesitated to reciprocate, but it declared its own truce on March 26 when the UN called for a global ceasefire.

No more peace talks

Last Friday, April 24, Duterte lashed out at the CPP-NPA for an alleged ambush on Army troops in Aurora on April 22, killing two soldiers.

During his televised speech, Duterte threatened to declare martial law if the CPP-NPA’s “lawlessness” continued. He then brought up a months-old proposal from the communist rebels for the resumption of peace negotiations, which the AFP rejected.

The CPP-NPA hit back at Duterte, telling him to stop using the threat of martial law to draw attention away from his administration’s “inept” response to the pandemic.

On Monday, April 27, Duterte ruled out negotiations with the CPP-NPA, saying, “There’s no more peace talks to talk about.”

The AFP welcomed the move, and called peace talks with the CPP-NPA “the apex of futility.”

“The CPP-NPA have never been sincere in talking peace with government,” AFP spokesperson Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo said in a statement on Thursday, April 30.

Talking peace with the CPP-NPA was Duterte’s campaign promise, and his administration had begun preliminary negotiations with the rebels in Norway in the first year of his term.

However, sporadic violent encounters between rebels and government troops continued, and in November 2017, Duterte scrapped the negotiations.

In December 2019, Duterte offered a “last card” attempt at reviving peace talks with the CPP-NPA. His security officials later revealed the gesture was prompted by a proposal from the rebel group.

The CPP-NPA rebellion began in 1969. Tens of thousands of soldiers, rebels, and civilians have been killed in 5 decades of fighting. – Rappler.com 

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JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.