NPA lifts unilateral ceasefire; active defense mode triggered

The National Operations Command of the New People’s Army and the Communist Party of the Philippines’ Central Committee declared at 10:00 in the morning today its termination of the communist guerilla’s unilateral interim ceasefire through its spokesperson Jorge ‘Ka Oris’ Madlos. The August 28 unilateral ceasefire shall effectively expire on 11:59 p.m. of February 10.

In a statement posted on its website and social media handles, Ka Oris cited the refusal of the Manila government to fulfill its earlier promise of releasing all political detainees in the country. “The GRP has not complied with its obligation to amnesty and release all political prisoners under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees as a matter of justice and in fulfillment of the promise of President Duterte,” said Ka Oris in his statement.

Prior Ka Oris’ declaration, both the NPA and the Armed Forces of the Philippines reported violations of their own and respective unilateral ceasefire declarations. The NPA on its part reported that the AFP has engaged in military combat operations in more than 500 villages, 162 municipalities and 43 provinces all over the country. Ka Oris labeled such military operations of the AFP as an act of ‘treacherously taking advantage of the unilateral declaration of interim ceasefire to encroach on the territory of the people’s democratic government’. The Armed Forces on the other hand, reported several encounters in 7 areas since January 29.

In recent months, the Communist Party of the Philippines’ Central Committee consistently condemned the incursions of the AFP in guerrilla territories. On January, the top political body of the communist organization said that there are more than 500 villages all over the country that have been encamped and controlled by the military in a ‘treacherous’ exploitation of the standing ceasefire of the NPA. The CPP also accused the AFP of adversely affecting the livelihood of not less than half a million farmers in the nation.

It can also be remembered that on October last year, the communists called on President Rodrigo Duterte to ‘rein over’ his troops as it would endanger the then two-month-old unilateral ceasefire of the communist guerillas. They then accused the military of continuing to escalate counter-insurgency operations in defiance of the Duterte government’s own unilateral ceasefire.

'Ka Oris' photo courtesy: Philippine Revolution Web Central
‘Ka Oris’ photo courtesy: Philippine Revolution Web Central

Ka Oris also accused the AFP troops of veiling their hostile actions through ‘peace and development’, ‘civil-military’, ‘peace and order’, ‘anti-drugs campaign’, ‘medical mission’ or ‘law enforcement’ labels. The guerrilla spokesperson also said that the suspension of military operations (SOMO) and suspension of police operations (SOPO) issued by the AFP and the Philippine National Police as bases of the Duterte government’s unilateral ceasefire declaration served as license for the government troops and paramilitary units to conduct hostile actions against the NPA.

Most notable encounter of the AFP and the NPA was in Makilala, North Cotabato on January 25 where the NPA’s Southern Mindanao Guerrilla Front 51 declared 1 casualty and 8 from the AFP. The AFP’s 39th Infantry Battalion, however, denied of such loss. This skirmish happened while the peace panels of both the GRP and the NDFP were at the 3rd round of peace negotiations in Rome, Italy.

In an infographic posted by the CPP’s Information Bureau on its Facebook page, it showed a map of the country and where the AFP allegedly continues to conduct military operations. Particularly in Eastern Visayas, towns of Catubig, Las Navas, Lope de Vega, Gamay and Palapag were listed as militarized communities in the province of Northern Samar. Jipapad and Oras towns in the province of Eastern Samar and Calbiga town in Western Samar. The towns of Burauen and Carigara were also on the list, in the province of Leyte.

Oris: Duterte, honor JASIG, release political prisoners

The CPP noted the failure of the Duterte administration to release all 392 political detainees as the main reason for lifting the NPA’s ceasefire. “The unilateral ceasefire declaration was issued on the mutual understanding with the GRP that such releases will take effect within 60 days of August 28. Such was the context why the GRP panel approached the NDFP towards the end of October seeking an extension of the CPP/NPA’s declaration with a promise that around 200 political prisoners were set to be released,” said Madlos in the statement.

Asked by Eastern Vista on the expected repercussions of the ceasefire lifting to the ongoing peace negotiations, Ka Oris answered that the Communist Party all the more expect President Rodrigo Duterte to stay true to his word and finally honor the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees or JASIG in all its components.

A day  before the NPA’s declaration, NDFP Negotiating Panel Chair Fidel Agcaoili reminded Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza of the Government of the Philippines that the Red’s unilateral ceasefire declaration was “in response to the GRP’s promise of substantial releases of sick, elderly, women and long-held detainees, as well as the withdrawal of the military from communities, the fulfillment of which would have laid the firm basis for a more stable ceasefire and encouraged further the acceleration of the peace negotiations.”

JASIG is a system of providing security to individuals concerned with the peace process. The agreement of implementing such was approved by the Philippines government then headed by President Fidel Ramos and the NDFP through its Chairperson Mariano Orosa. JASIG also extends immunity guarantees that protect the rights of negotiators, consultants, staffers, security and other personnel who participate in the peace talks to facilitate the negotiations. For the past years, JASIG was consistently questioned by the Manila government. The Aquino administration has been accused by the National Democratic Front of actively blocking efforts of re-initiating the peace process during his presidency when successive attempts of declaring JASIG inoperative were done by his government.

President Duterte however, has initially promised to release all political prisoners on May 23, last year in his nightly presser at Davao City. It was just days before his inauguration in Malacañang Palace. But from that well-publicized promise, Duterte has dramatically backtracked since then.

Duterte has repeatedly refused to approve the release of political prisoners but has also publicly announced either directly or thru his peace advisers that the prisoners’ release is yet again forthcoming. The supposed flip-flop of the President is said to be mainly attributed to Duterte giving up to the pressure of either the military or to his intent to pursue a negotiated peace with the Reds.

Peace process to proceed

“Even as we terminate the unilateral declaration of interim ceasefire, we continue to support the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations within the framework of The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992. In our experience and in the experience of other peoples, it is possible to negotiate while fighting until the substantive agreements are forged to address the roots of the armed conflict and lay the basis for a just and lasting peace,” said Ka Oris in his statement.

The NPA Spokesperson also expressed the CPP-NPA’s opposition to the “use of interim ceasefires for an indefinite ceasefire without substantial benefit for the people and their revolutionary forces and for laying aside peace negotiations on substantive issues such as social, economic and political reforms. Such is tantamount to the capitulation and pacification of the revolutionary people and forces.”

The NDFP on the other hand, warned the Duterte government of the possible adverse impacts to the ongoing peace process “as a result of its bellicose statements on the actions of the NPA to defend itself and protect communities,” said the NDFP in its statement.

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Eastern Vista

Eastern Vista is an alternative media organization in Eastern Visayas. Stories of people in the struggle for justice and aid after super typhoon Yolanda inspired its creation in 2014. Eastern Vista is also a co-producer of Lingganay han Kamatuoran, a Waray-based radio magazine program airing since 2003. From Eastern Philippines, Eastern Vista shares the news and views from a people rising.