FOLLOWING President Rodrigo Duterte's order to suspend military operations against the communist insurgents, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Thursday, December 21, set the dates of unilateral ceasefire with them.
Defense spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said the unilateral ceasefire with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, New People's Army (NPA), will take effect at 6 p.m. of December 23 until 11:59 p.m. of December 26 and from 6 p.m. of December 30 to 11:59 p.m. of January 2.
The AFP's dates of ceasefire were different from Duterte's directive on Wednesday, December 20 to declare suspension of military operations from December 24 to January 2 next year, in time for the holiday season.
Speaking to Palace reporters, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said the executive department was unaware as to why the military altered the proposed dates to temporarily suspend fighting with the communists.
Duterte ordered the ceasefire even after he issued Proclamation 374, declaring CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization.
Andolong said the government was hopeful that the communists would also declare a ceasefire with the the military.
He also reminded the public to remain alert, despite the impending suspension of military offensives against the communists to ensure their security and safety.
"We urge those who are waging war against our sovereign government and inflicting harm on the Filipino people to spend this period in reflection and seriously reconsider returning to the fold of law," the Defense official said.
"We also direct our defenders to maintain their vigilance and be mindful of their safety in their areas of responsibility during the ceasefire. Finally, we encourage our citizens to cooperate and stand with our Defenders who are ensuring peace and security in all of our communities," he added.
The government peace panel was about to hold the fifth round of talks with the communists' political wing, the National Democratic Front (NDF), in May but the President ordered the termination of peace process, following the continuing attacks of NPA members against the state forces.
Roque explained that Duterte suspended the military operations against the communists "for the Filipino people, not for the NPA."
Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Jesus Dureza, in a separate statement, said the ceasefire clearly indicated Duterte's "unwavering desire to bring sustainable and durable peace in the land despite the cancellation of peace negotiations with the CPP/NPA/NDF."
"President Duterte's unilateral declaration is a bold step... The presidential announcement declaring a ceasefire is for the benefit of all peace-loving citizens as the world celebrates the Christmas season," Dureza said.
"Although arrived at unilaterally upon the President's sole determination, it is my personal expectation – and the public as well, I'm sure – that the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed organs will extend reciprocity to President Duterte's gesture for peace," he added.
When asked if there is still a possibility of revival of talks following Duterte's order, Roque replied, "Only the President can answer that." (SunStar Philippines)