AFP reports two possible violations from NPA on first day of truce

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Military reports a landmine explosion allegedly planted by the NPA in Iloilo Monday morning.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 23) — The military said the New People’s Army (NPA) may have already violated the ceasefire that it has agreed to enforce with the government just hours after it took effect.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Spokesperson Edgard Arevalo said they have received initial reports saying one solider was killed while six others were injured in an attack by suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Quezon Province and Camarines Norte while policemen were also wounded from a landmine explosion also planted allegedly by the NPA in Iloilo on Monday morning.

“There are at least two reported [violations] at the time that the ceasefire is already in effect,” said Arevalo in a press briefing.

The government and communist rebels on Sunday agreed to recommend a nationwide ceasefire from midnight of December 23 , 2019 to 11:59 p.m. of January 7, 2020, to pave the way for the possible resumption of peace talks. Both issued the order for the reciprocal ceasefire shortly after.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said this was the decision of the President to achieve peace in the country.

"This grant is precisely to generate an atmosphere that will lead to preliminary talks and then formal talks for a peace negotiation...We hope that this will pave the way for a lasting peace in this country," he said in a briefing in Malacañang.

Arevalo said despite the incidents, the military will continue to adhere to the ceasefire order. He said the rebels would have to deal with the violations from their side.

“These violations on the other side is their responsibility. Pananagutan nila ito sa sambayanang Pilipino na umaasa na ngayong Pasko, at umiiral na ceasefire, sila ay makakapagdiriwang ng kapaskuhan ng tahimik at mapayapa,” he said.

[Translation: They would have to hold themselves accountable to the people, who are hoping to celebrate Christmas peacefully with the ongoing ceasefire.]

The Philippine National Police (PNP) said it will also avoid launching offensive operations against the rebels to respect the truce.

"The most [that we will do] probably is we will file criminal cases against them pero hindi kami mago-offensive [we will not go on the offensive]...It is a violation of what we promised to the people" said PLtGen Archie Gamboa, PNP Officer-in-Charge.

Arevalo said that these possible violations showed that the Communist Party of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines “do not have at all any control over their people.”

He said they will just have to wait for their explanation.

Hintayin natin kung ano ang kanilang palusot o paliwanag,” said Arevalo.

[Translation: Let us wait for what will be their excuse or explanation.]

Possible threats

The ceasefire declarations come after National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon claimed that the CPP was plotting an assassination of top government officials in time for its 50th founding anniversary on December 26.

Panelo shrugged off the claim, saying CPP founding chairman Jose Maria Sison already denied the allegations.

“He (Esperson) was fed by false information. Jose Maria Sison denied it already,” said Panelo.

He added that even if these plots were true they have been known to have failed in the past.

“The very essence of a rebellion is to put the government down so necessarily kasama doon ‘yung pag-assassinate ng lahat ng mga taong [that includes assassinating those people] running the government…but we are ready for that. They have been doing that for the past 50 years and they have failed,” said Panelo.

Meanwhile, both the military and the PNP said they will continue monitoring the rebels for possible threats.

“We will still be actively monitoring them....Probably hindi [not] tactical offensive, kasi 'yun ang [because that is the] purpose ng [of a] ceasefire,” said Gamboa.