WATCH | NPA declares own unilateral holiday ceasefire

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE – 1:27 p.m.) Communist rebels declared on Friday, December 22, their own unilateral ceasefire “in observance of the Filipino people’s traditional holidays and the (Communist Party of the Philippines’) 49th anniversary” on December 26.

The announcement by Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos, spokesman of the New People’s Army’s National Operational Command, came a few days after President Rodrigo Duterte declared a suspension of offensive military operations from December 24 to January 2.

The rebel ceasefire’s coverage, however, followed the two-stage ceasefire declared separately by the Department of National Defense — from 6 p.m. of December 23 to 6 p.m. of December 26, and from 6 p.m. of December 30 to 6 p.m. of January 2.

In an earlier report by independent media outfit Kodao Productions, Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison said the the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, which represents the rebels to now terminated peace talks with government, had recommended a a ceasefire running for the same period’s as Duterte’s.

Sison said he had also recommended that the rebel ceasefire order include a warning to the NPA about the “lying, deceitful, attacking and occupying characteristics” of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and paramilitary forces.

The rebel declaration released by Madlos said during the periods of the ceasefire, “all NPA units and people’s militias shall cease and desist from carrying out offensive military campaigns and operations against the uniformed armed personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and its paramilitaries, and the Philippine National Police of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.”

Soldiers and policemen “who have no serious liabilities other than their membership in their armed units shall not be subjected to arrest or punitive actions” and “may be allowed individually to enter the territory of the people’s democratic government to make personal visits to relatives and friends,” it added.

But it also included cautionary instructions for rebel units to “remain on active defensive mode in order to defend the people and revolutionary forces” and to “continue to enforce policies and laws of the people’s democratic government, perform necessary and appropriate functions of governance, and mobilize the people and resources in territories under its authority.”

The NPA said a “high degree of alertness and preparation” was necessary to prevent what it said was the deployment of military units to some 500 communities throughout the country during the ill-fated six-month unilateral ceasefires the government and rebels declared last year.

The rebels said they had received reports of at least 129 activist murdered since July last year, the “illegal arrests of more than a thousand activists and their supporters and cases of mass evacuations due to militarization, intense bombings and shelling.”