Official ceasefire orders shown to communist peace panel

JC Gotinga

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Official ceasefire orders shown to communist peace panel

Alecs Ongcal

After a tussle over alleged truce violations by communist rebels, the National Democratic Front now hopes the ceasefire can 'proceed effectively'

MANILA, Philippines – The negotiating panel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines has received copies of official military and police orders to suspend offensives against communist guerrillas over the holidays, the NDF panel head Fidel Agcaoili said in a statement on Thursday, December 26.

“We hope that from hereon the unilateral and reciprocal ceasefires declared by the two Parties shall proceed effectively,” Agcaoili said, days after the government accused the communist party of violating a ceasefire with 3 separate attacks on army and police personnel on Monday, December 23, the first day of the truce.

The NDF is the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

The government had reciprocated the NDF panel’s unilateral declaration of a ceasefire from December 23, 2019 to January 7, 2020, as the two sides plan to revive peace negotiations.

Agcaoili said they received copies of the Suspension of Offensive Military Operations (SOMO) issued by the Philippine military chief General Noel Clement, and of the Suspension of Offensive Police Operations (SOPO) from Philippine National Police Officer-in-Charge Lieutenant General Archie Gamboa, on Thursday at 8:54 am Dutch time, or 3:54 pm Philippine time.

The SOMO was dated December 24. The SOPO, dated December 22, came with a memorandum from Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, dated December 23.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, who leads the government peace panel, sent whe copies of the orders. He met with Agcaoili and CPP founding chairman Jose Maria “Joma” Sison earlier in December in Utrecht, the Netherlands, where the communist leaders are exiled.

Sison earlier threatened to cancel the ceasefire if the NDF is not shown copies of the official orders, the Inquirer reported.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo then responded by saying the orders were “not forthcoming.”

“Sison and his comrades can proceed with the cancellation of the ceasefire and the President will oblige them. In the first place, they have violated their own declared unilateral ceasefire. So there is not even logic in their threat,” Panelo said in a statement on Friday morning, December 27.

Peace talks

The government and the NDF are gearing up for yet another round of peace talks proposed by President Rodrigo Duterte on December 5.

Earlier negotiations between the Duterte administration and the communist rebels foundered over accusations that communist rebels violated a ceasefire. That round of peace talks was terminated in November 2017.

The government afterwards launched “localized peace talks” upon Duterte’s orders in December 2018. Local government units, the military, and the police have since dealt with individual New People’s Army fronts, urging them to surrender as armed offensives against them continue.

On Monday, after the government and the NDF agreed on a ceasefire, the military and police reported 3 ambushes that they blamed on the NPA. Two policemen were injured in an attack in Iloilo, while an army soldier was killed and 6 more wounded in an ambush in Camarines Norte. A third attack happened in Quezon.

The government condemned the incidents as ceasefire violations, but Duterte allowed the communist party to explain the incidents. Agcaoili claimed the NPA guerrillas were only defending themselves against “sustained operations” of the police and military despite the ceasefire.

The military said the incidents showed the CPP and the NDF had lost control over the NPA. Security officials have been wary of negotiating with the communist rebels.

The issuance of the SOMO and SOPO puts the matter to rest, Sison said in a statement on Friday.

“At this point in time, there is no more problem about continuing the CPP ceasefire order to the NPA…. The best thing to do is cool down and proceed with the reciprocal ceasefires and let them generate goodwill and confidence in preparation for the resumption of the peace negotiations,” Sison said. –

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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.