President Rodrigo Duterte will “give a lot of weight” to the recommendation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) not to declare a holiday truce with the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, New People’s Army, Malacañang said Thursday.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the country’s chief executive will review the recommendation of the military forces to buck the declaration of temporary ceasefire between government troops and communist guerrillas in line with the holidays.
“I cannot second guess the decision of the President but I can assure that he gives a lot of weight to such recommendations of the AFP,” Roque said in a televised briefing.
“He will listen to it, but ultimately, the President will decide [on the matter],” he added.
Earlier in the day, AFP spokesperson Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said the military is not inclined to a truce, claiming that the communist rebels have been hostile to government forces during the ceasefires declared in the recent years.
“This was the AFP’s painful experience where the communist terrorist group reneged from their own ceasefire declaration by attacking and killing soldiers on humanitarian and peace and development missions,” Arevalo said.
“During the incumbency of a truce, these terrorists continued their extortion activities and committed crimes of murder, arson, and the likes,” he added.
Should the President buck a holiday ceasefire this year, this will be the third Christmas under his administration without truce with the rebels.
His administration observed ceasefires during the holiday season in 2016 and 2019.
During the period, armed rebels were barred from initiating operations against the state forces, which, in turn, only maintained defensive posture.
This year is marked by intense military attacks and red-tagging of alleged rebel sympathizers. Duterte, in his recent speech, alleged that some lawmakers in the House of Representatives are “co-conspirators” of the communist insurgents in overthrowing the government.
While communism is not a crime in the Philippines, armed rebels are usually charged with murder and illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
The government has a pending court petition to proscribe the CPP and the NPA, along with its political wing, National Democratic Front, as a terrorist organization. The military, however, refers to it as a “terrorist group” in its press releases.
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