DAVAO CITY -- The military vowed to pursue operations and community outreach programs despite the declaration of a unilateral ceasefire by the central committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
Incoming Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., said he asked military personnel to remain active and on defense mode.
"We foresee a very peaceful Christmas and more united. We see there is a good relationship with the community and government with our security sector," he said in an interview on Sunday.
"This will be very beneficial to us and nagapapasalamat kami sa (and we thanked) the all-out support of the President (Rodrigo Duterte) and local chief executives, also in other areas," he added.
The military, Madrigal said, is not also keen on recommending a suspension of military operations (SOMO) to reciprocate the CPP's five-day holiday ceasefire.
In a separate phone interview, Lt. Gen. Macairog S. Alberto, Commanding General of the Philippine Army (CGPA), said the military will "continue with its current mission to protect the people, the state and our territory."
Brig. Gen. Ernesto Torres, commander of the 1003rd Brigade, said the military will have to exercise its mandate of protecting the people, adding that they will continue to implement community outreach programs even on Christmas holidays.
Torres said the communist rebels' offer of a holiday truce will not also stop the security forces to arrest any members of the NPA.
During ceasefire period, the central committee said that all units of the NPA and people’s militia shall cease and desist from carrying out offensive military campaigns and operations against the government troops.
Torres, however, said the NPA ceasefire is a welcome development if only to give the people especially those in the hinterlands a respite from armed confrontation.
“Pero ano ba itong unilateral ceasefire (But what is this unilateral ceasefire)? Is this for their 50th celebration? They are the only ones who will benefit from it,” Torres said.
According to the central committee, a temporary unilateral ceasefire is an expression of unity with the Filipino people’s observance of traditional holidays the revolutionary forces a brief period mark and celebrate the CPP’s upcoming 50th anniversary.
Torres, however, said it would have been better if the ceasefire is forever.
"Sana maging forever na yung the ceasefire (I wish the ceasefire is forever) because if you will not bear arms against the government we can just always sit down and talk peacefully if we have differences," Torres said.
Torres said the members of the NPA should use the ceasefire period to reflect and assess the programs being offered by the government, adding that it is also time for them to celebrate Christmas with their family.
"I would just like to inform our brothers who are still with the NPA. I would like you to really observe that (ceasefire) and you are allowed to go back to your homes this Christmas season. Return to your homes and feel the warmth of the love of your family, of your friends,” he said.
He said rebels should consider government programs on reconciliation, rehabilitation, and reintegration. (PNA)