Malacañang on Tuesday welcomed the recommendation of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison to observe its own unilateral ceasefire amid the global fight against coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Sison’s decision to respond to the call of the United Nations (UN) for an immediate global ceasefire is “a positive development.”
“It is about time they join the collective efforts of the nation to fight the spread of the coronavirus,” he said in a message to reporters.
In view of the state of calamity and public health emergency, Panelo said Filipinos deserved a safe and peaceful environment where movement of health workers, medical supplies, food and other needs are unimpeded.
“We therefore welcome the cooperation of all, including those in the Left, to realize our goal of absolute peace during these times,” he said.
He expressed hope that Sison and communist rebels would “make good” and “stay true to their words.”
“Mr. Sison proposes concord to be realized during this global health crisis, it is also our hope that their group’s armed component on the ground would show genuine sincerity in laying down their arms and not use the occasion to mobilize their forces,” he said, referring to CPP’s armed wing New People’s Army (NPA).
Sison initially refused to reciprocate the ceasefire declared by President Rodrigo Duterte from March 19 to April 15, calling it “premature, insincere, and false” and “no clear basis yet to reciprocate” Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire.
Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. earlier accused the NPA of instigating violence after killing of two civilians—Manobo tribal leader Datu Bernardino Austidillo and former rebel Zaldy Ibanez—in San Miguel, Surigao del Sur, on the first day the government’s unilateral ceasefire took effect on March 19.
On the same night, armed men believed to be members of the CPP-NPA’s Leonardo Panaligan Command (LPC) attacked a Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (Cafrgu) patrol base in Brgy. Sandayao, Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental. No casualties were recorded during the firefight.
Sison changed his mind after UN Secretary General Antonio Guerres, in a speech at the UN headquarters in New York, called for a global truce to “focus on the true fight of our lives.”
“I am advising the negotiating panel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines to recommend to its principal, the NDFP National Council, the issuance of a unilateral ceasefire declaration by the CPP to the New People’s Army (NPA) in order to respond to the call of UN Secretary-General António Guterres for a global ceasefire between warring parties for the common purpose of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic,” Sison said.
Sison said there is a need to refrain from launching tactical offenses to gain time and opportunity to look after people’s health and welfare.
However, he noted that even with the unilateral ceasefire in place, the NPA must be vigilant to defend themselves against attacks by government forces.
On March 18, Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire with communist rebels to ensure the effective implementation of a Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine from March 17 to April 12 to contain the spread of the disease.
As of Tuesday, health authorities reported a total of 501 confirmed Covid-19 cases with 33 fatalities in the country. Source: Philippines News Agency