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Gov't, communist rebels declare 16-day ceasefire

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – The Duterte administration and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on Sunday, December 22, declared a long holiday ceasefire that will take effect first hour Monday, December 23, and will last until January 7 next year. 

The first to issue a unilateral ceasefire declaration was the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

“The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines hereby orders all commands and units of the New People’s Army and the people’s militias a nationwide ceasefire order that will take effect from 00:00H of 23 December 2019 to 23:59H of 7 January 2020,” the CPP statement released on Sunday said.  

"This ceasefire order shall take effect upon issuance of the corresponding and reciprocal ceasefire orders in the form of Suspension of Military Operations (SOMO) and Suspension of Police Operations (SOPO) to be issued by the Government of the Philippines," the CPP added.

Malacañang later reciprocated in a separate statement.

Hopes for talks

"The Chief Executive has instructed the Department of National Defense and the Department of the Interior and Local Government, together with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, to issue an official declaration therefor and communicate the directive for a national armistice with the CPP-NPA-NDF to their respective agents and armed units for due observance during the period," Malacañang said.

With this, Malacañang said the President was looking forward to "the possible resumption of peace talks" with the CPP's political arm, the National Democratic Front, and "attain a lasting peace among the citizenry of our country." 

In a statement on Monday, December 23, the Department of National Defense said units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have been given directives to observe the ceasefire, following Duterte's declaration.

"The AFP will remain on alert, and stand ready to respond to any threats to the safety and security of our communities," DND Spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said.

The communist guerillas have been waging a protracted war for more than 50 years now.

"The President wishes that all Filipinos enjoy quietude and serenity as they celebrate the Holiday Season with their loved ones free from violence or any form of disruption," the statement added.

The ceasefire declaration follows a recommendation signed by representatives of President Duterte and the NDF who held backchannel talks in Utrecht.  (READ: Holiday ceasefire with CPP pushed after informal talks)

It also comes in the wake of several months of violent clashes between the military and the New People's Army that have killed scores from both sides. Civilians have been caught in the crossfire, too.– Rappler.com