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Military will not recommend holiday ceasefire with communist rebels

For the third time since President Rodrigo Duterte became president in 2016, there may not be a holiday ceasefire between government troops and communist guerrillas.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will not recommend to President Duterte a Christmas and New Year ceasefire with the communist New People's Army, spokesperson Major General Edgard Arevalo said in a statement on Thursday, December 3.

"The AFP – wishing and longing for a peaceful Yuletide Season for the Filipino people notwithstanding – will not recommend to the Commander-in-Chief a holiday ceasefire with the Communist Terrorist Group (CTG)," Arevalo said.

It would be the 3rd time that no holiday ceasefire is observed by the warring sides.

Following Duterte's ambitious peace initiative with the guerrillas in 2016, both sides held a Christmas and New Year ceasefire that year, spilling over to early January 2017. But they did not cease hostilities during the 2017 and 2018 holidays as the peace negotiations reached a difficult stage. Efforts to revive the talks came about in 2019, thus a 16-day ceasefire that year that began on December 23, 2019.

This year, however, is marked by intense military attacks and red-tagging against NPA bases and alleged rebel sympathizers. Even Duterte has red-tagged leftist lawmakers. Red-tagging is the act of linking legitimate groups to the underground NPA.

There is no law that makes communism a crime in the Philippines. Members of the NPA and activists that government links to them are charged with common crimes, usually murder and illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

"AFP Chief General Gilbert Gapay assures the President of the AFP’s support to whatever decision the Commander-in-Chief makes in his exercise of his prerogatives," said Arevalo.

The military defended its "strong position" against a ceasefire, citing "painful experience where the CTG reneged from their own ceasefire declaration by attacking and killing soldiers on humanitarian and peace and development missions."

The Senate has been conducting an inquiry into red-tagging, but activists criticize that it has been transformed into a platform precisely to red-tag them.

The recently red-tagged is 32-year-old Amanda Echanis, a peasant organizer in Cagayan valley, who was arrested December 2 after a police raid that yielded guns and grenades. Echanis is the daughter of slain activist Randall Echanis, whose murder in August is still unresolved.

Duterte and the military's pet law, the anti-terror law, is feared to target activists. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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