PNP on Full Alert as CPP-NPA Ends Ceasefire with Government

PNP taking defensive stance with CPP-NPA  as it implements quarantine protocols.
Photo/s: JEROME ASCANO

The Philippine National Police (PNP) is now on full alert as communist rebels end their temporary truce with the government of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The rebels are members of the New People's Army,  which was formed in 1968 and, at 52 years, is touted as the longest-running insurgency movement in Asia. 

Its fighting force, according to a 2018 report by the state-sponsored Philippine News Agency, was at 11,608, a far cry from its self-announced number of 25,000 to 30,000 in the years of the autocrat-president, Ferdinand Marcos. 

The PNP, under the command of Police General Archie Francisco Gamboa, says it is ready to fight any attack by the NPA and its political parties, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF).

The country's 205,000-strong police force will engage the communist rebels while implementing the protocols in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement released on Facebook on May 2, 2020, PNP Spokesperson Police Brigadier General Bernard Banac announced:

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"On top of our duty to implement strict quarantine measures to stop the spread of this pandemic, the PNP assures Filipinos that your police and military are united behind our Commander-in-Chief President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to enforce our mandate to uphold public safety against this communist terrorist group.

"As government condemns this rebellion by the CPP-NPA-NDF as a threat to public safety amid the pandemic; we will continue to uphold the imposition of ECQ in high-risk areas and GCQ in the rest of the country from May 1 to May 15, 2020 based on government guidelines." 

On March 18 Duterte declared a ceasefire with the NPA, ostensibly to allow police and military forces to focus on implementing the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon and other areas in the Philippines.

The following day, Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana issued the order to the military.

A week later, March 25, CPP-NPA-NDF declared a unilateral armistice.

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Jose Maria "Joma" Sison, exiled founder of the CPP, said their decision was a response, not to the Duterte government's plea, but "to the call of UN secretary-general Antonio Gutierres for a global ceasefire between warring parties for the common purpose of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic."

In a statement released on its website, the CPP declared that the ceasefire would limit its armed actions to defensive operations.

The CPP would later claim that, during the ceasefire period, the Armed Forces of the Philippines launched at least 36 attacks against the NPA in 23 provinces.

For its part, the Department of the Interior and Local Government  (DILG) would claim that on March 28 the NPA attacked 18 soldiers from the Philippine Army Community Support Program Team as the soldiers distributed leaflets and relief goods in Barangay Puray in Rizal.

"[The NPA] never honors its own words and has proven, once again, that it only exists to promote violence and inflict harm to the Filipino people with this attack on Philippine Army soldiers in this critical time of the COVID-19 pandemic," DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said in a press statement on March 31.

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On April 27, during his public briefing the President announced he was calling off peace negotiations with the CPP-NPA-NDF.

Duterte, who has had a seesawing  friendly-hostile relationship with the rebels, also threatened to declare martial law if the insurgents would not cease their attacks on soldiers.

The CPP ended its ceasefire on April 30 and ordered the NPA to return to combat. 

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