(UPDATED) The Department of National Defense (DND) set their own ceasefire schedule on Thursday, a day after the unilateral ceasefire declaration with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA) of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“The DND announces the declaration of a unilateral ceasefire against the CPP/NPA by the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] from 6p.m. Dec. 23 to 6 p.m. Dec. 26; and 6 p.m. Dec. 30 to 6 p.m. Jan.2,” said DND spokesperson Director Arsenio Andolong in a statement.
The DND also clarified that it is only a ‘suspension of offensive military operations.’
Before Duterte’s declaration, the Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Andolong quoting Lorenzana kept on saying they would not recommend the traditional Christmas ceasefire to the president.
Duterte himself said on November 22 that he would not declare a ceasefire, gaining flak from some senators for the inconsistencies and mixed signals and from those who supported his initial statement to not declare a ceasefire.
Duterte said the ceasefire is for the Filipinos and not the NPA.
Upon the president’s declaration of suspension of military operations (SOMO), Lorenzana maintained he did not recommend it, but the president wanted it.
“I was actually adamant I did not recommend for the cessation of military operations against the CPP-NPA. But if the President declared so, then we are going to implement and abide by the directive of the President,” Lorenzana said in a news conference in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
Yet the following day, the DND issued a different schedule from the declaration from Malacañang.
Duterte/Malacañang unilateral ceasefire declaration
|December 24, 2017 to January 2, 2018||December 23 6pm to December 26 6pm;
December 30 6pm to January 2 6pm
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced Duterte’s December 24 to January 2 ceasefire decision, going against the oft-broadcasted recommendations of his security officials, at noon on December 20.
“Christmas holds a special place in the hearts of our countrymen. This unilateral ceasefire would lessen the apprehension of the public this Christmas season,” said Roque.
Roque said that the government expects that the CPP, NPA would do a similar gesture of goodwill.
Duterte later attended the anniversary of the 82nd anniversary of the AFP, where he announced that he has fulfilled the campaign promise to double the pay of soldiers effective on the first day of January. He said he would also allot P 50 million monthly worth of funds for wounded soldiers and veterans coursed through the military hospitals, that the Department of Budget and Management said would probably be sourced from the Presidential Social Fund, an appropriation within the Office of the President.
In a press conference hours after the DND announcement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said government’s ceasefire with the NPA will now run from December 23 at 6pm to December 26 at 11:59pm, and from December 30 at 6pm until January 2 at 11:59pm. Roque said there was no explanation for the change of schedule, that is still different from the DND announcement.
CPP Founding Chairman and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison posted his reaction on Duterte’s ceasefire declaration: “Kung totoong hindi sasalakay ang AFP at PNP, walang tatambangan ng NPA. Pero malamang na pakunwari ang SOMO. Alerto lang ang NPA laban sa panlilinlang, pagsalakay at okupasyon ng kaaway sa mga baryo. Ang AFP at PNP naman ang mananalakay at mananakop.”
[If it’s true that the AFP and PNP would not launch offensives against the NPA, the NPA would not have to ambush anybody. But the SOMO is probably a sham. The NPA would be on alter against the deception, aggression and occupation of the enemy in the barrios. It is the AFP and PNP who would attack and invade.]
Netizens and activists also expressed doubts on the SOMO, saying it was never followed, even during the longest unilateral ceasefire from August 2016 to January 2017 when the peace talks between the government and the CPP-NPA-NDFP were still in its active phases.
“The thing to remember about Duterte and ceasefire is this: During the earlier ceasefire, the AFP never stopped pushing as deep into rebel territory as they could. And Duterte himself insisted his soldiers could patrol wherever they wanted, even deep into guerrilla bases. And then he erupted in rage if those soldiers were ambushed. It will just be more of the same this holiday seasons — except w more legal activists getting killed or arrested,” posted Inday Espina-Varona on Facebook.
Religious leaders, church groups and even local politicians have called for the declaration of ceasefire during the holidays. The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, who also found the cancellation of peace talks and terrorist tagging of the CPP-NPA-NDFP tragic, welcomed the government’s ceasefire declaration as a ‘wonderful gift.’