AFP: Holiday ceasefire not being considered

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 14) — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Wednesday said a ceasefire with communist rebels this holiday season is not being considered.

"The ceasefire is out of the question now because, number one, we do not know who to talk to. The leaders are into hiding, some are neutralized," AFP spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar told CNN Philippines' The Source.

"Number two, there is a leadership crisis within the underground organizations, so how can they impose ceasefire to make sure compliance of all its forces. The most that we can offer right is the suspension of military operations and we will shift to active defense," he added.

In June, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison said they are open to holding peace talks with the Marcos administration. 

National Security Adviser Clarita Carlos, however, earlier told CNN Philippines she expects peace talks with communist rebels to not push through under the current administration. Authorities should instead go to the ground and replicate successes there, she noted. 

Former President Rodrigo Duterte initiated peace talks in the first year of his presidency, but terminated it in November 2017, citing the rebels' "lack of accountability" for the crimes they committed.

He also said in an address in December 2020 that there will be no more ceasefire under his term. 

According to Aguilar, five guerilla fronts of the CPP and its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), remain active, four of which are in Samar, and the remaining in Southern Mindanao.

Aguilar said they are focusing military operations on 154 barangays still affected by armed conflicts to free them from the influence of rebel groups. Moreover, the AFP is also intensifying its community support programs in these areas to bring in the right intervention and address the root cause of the problem, he added.

Aguilar said the AFP also has an effective framework on preventing and countering violent extremism. In the past three months, more than 50 members of local terrorist groups have been neutralized, he noted.