Army, police on alert despite truce

MILITARY troops in Negros Occidental and policemen in Western Visayas will remain on full alert status despite the suspension of offensive military operations (Somo).

President Rodrigo Duterte declared a ceasefire with the communist rebels from December 24, 2017 to January 2, 2018.

Duterte has directed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to suspend offensives against the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), in observance of the holiday season.

Colonel Eliezer Losañes, commander of the Philippine Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade, said they have not received an official directive yet from the higher headquarters, but they will abide by it.

Superintendent Gilbert Gorero, spokesperson of Police Regional Office (PRO)-Western Visayas, said they also have yet to receive an official order from the national headquarters, but they will follow the president's order.

Gorero said that the Somo will not cause them to lower their security alert especially during the holiday season.

“The offensive operations will stop, but it will not limit us from conducting prophylactic patrol in rural areas and visibility patrol in urban areas," Gorero said.

He also said they will implement the Oplan Ligtas Paskuhan 2017 in the whole region to secure places of convergence like churches, shopping malls, transport hubs, public plaza, and other areas, with the help of the other government agencies.

The Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (Nocppo) will be consistent with their partnership with the AFP on the campaign against terrorism.

Inspector Charmae de Paz, public information officer of Nocppo, said that policemen in the province will remain vigilant and in defensive mode for possible atrocities.

De Paz said they will continue to intensify their campaign against unlawful elements through random checkpoints, mobile patrol operations, and establishment of police assistance desks in areas of convergence.

They will also strengthen their campaign against loose firearms, she said.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said on Wednesday the government was expecting that the communist group would reciprocate Duterte's announcement of a unilateral truce.

“This unilateral ceasefire would lessen the apprehension of the public this Christmas season. We expect that the CPP-NPA-NDFP would do a similar gesture of goodwill,” he added.

Duterte earlier signed Proclamations 360 and 274, which formally terminates the government's peace talks with CPP's political wing NDF, and declares CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization.

In November, the Commander-in-Chief said he would no longer declare truce with the communist insurgents, following his lament that they lack sincerity in negotiating with the government.

In an interview in Pasay City on early Wednesday the President hinted that he might declare cessation of hostilities with the communists, even after he declared them as terrorists, to allow Filipinos to celebrate Christmas season "without stress."

Roque said the declaration of unilateral ceasefire aimed to fulfill the Duterte administration's aspiration to achieve peace in the country. (with reports from SunStar Philippines)


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