AFP accuses communist rebels of violating Christmas truce

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – On the first day of a 16-day holiday truce declared by the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the military accused the guerrillas of violating it after receiving reports of at least 3 ambushes believed to have been perpetrated by the party's New People’s Army (NPA).

The Philippine government and the CPP started a ceasefire beginning midnight on Monday, December 23, until January 7, 2020, as part of what Malacañang said could set the stage for the resumption of the stalled peace talks between both sides.

"They demand for peace but their actions speak otherwise. We cannot let them (NPAs) roam around and lord over the lives of our peace-loving people," said AFP Central Command chief Major General Roberto Ancan.

What violations? The first alleged violation, reported by the Philippine National Police (PNP), involves an improvised explosive device (IED) ambush in Iloilo that injured two policemen on Monday morning.

The second and third involved separate incidents also on Monday morning when Army troopers were “fired upon” in Tagkawayan, Quezon, and in Labo, Camarines Norte. One was killed and 6 were wounded in the Camarines Norte ambush.

Why this matters: If proven to be committed by the NPA, these attacks could kill a budding reset to the peace talks and embolden those in government who are advising President Rodrigo Duterte to completely abandon the peace process with the guerillas. (READ: How to resume talks with rebels? January meeting to set the agenda)

Fidel Agcaoili, chairman of NDF negotiating panel, said in a statement that they will check the “veracity” of the “press releases” that reported on the supposed ceasefire violations.

He also recommended that the government file its complaints with the joint committee that was formed after the peace talks with the Duterte administration began in 2016.

President Duterte already holds a record of issuing sweeping arrest orders when displeased by the CPP-NPA. In December 2017, Duterte signed a proclamation declaring the CPP-NPA as a terrorist group on the grounds that their actions “create a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic.”

The military stands down: In a Camp Aguinaldo briefing on Monday, AFP spokesman Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo announced that General Noel Clement directed field commanders to observe the ceasefire “faithfully,” which means the halt of all “combat operations” targeting communists.

He added, however, that the military will continue patrolling their territories and will still arrest insurgents caught illegally carrying firearms and explosives. – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

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