Joma: GRP forces should release their SOMO-SOPO

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan–Government agencies tasked to issue official unilateral ceasefire declarations seem to have bucked President Rodrigo Duterte even as their rebel counterparts have already issued their truce order today, Monday, December 22.

A day after Presidential chief legal counsel and spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced Duterte has directed the Department of National Defense, Department of Interior and Local Government, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and Philippine National Police to issue ceasefire declarations and suspension of military and police operations, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said he has yet to see copies of the government’s truce orders.

“Not yet…They should follow their President and commander in chief. They should release their SOMO (Suspension of Military Operations) and SOPO (Suspension of Police Operations) to the media,” Sison told Kodao in an online interview.

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines released its truce order yesterday in time for the supposed start of the holiday season ceasefire today in accordance with the Joint Statement signed by Duterte’s emissaries and NDFP negotiators in Utrecht, The Netherlands last December 21.

The statement said however that the reciprocal unilateral ceasefire agreements would only be in effect when both parties have issued their respective truce orders.

Questions on whether the reciprocal unilateral ceasefire agreements are already in effect were raised after a New People’s Army (NPA) unit ambushed Philippine Army (PA) troopers Monday morning.

Gov’t troopers on combat patrols ambushed

Ninth Infantry Division-PA public affairs chief Major Ricky Aguilar told reporters earlier today that a platoon of government soldiers on combat patrol was ambushed by NPA fighters in Labo, Camarines Norte.

A government trooper was killed while six others were injured by an improvised explosive device as the soldiers were pulling out from Barangay Paat at about 9:20 a.m., Aguilar said.

The killed and wounded soldiers have yet to be identified.

Joint Task Force Bicolandia commander Major General Fernando Trinidad condemned the attack as “treacherous” and a violation of the ceasefire agreement.

“This action is a clear manifestation of their (NPA) deceptive and ill motives,” Trinidad said in a press statement.

Also last Monday, PNP’s Gamboa accused the NPA of staging an ambush against the Iloilo Mobile Force Company that injured two police officers in Tubugan town, Iloilo Province.

Sison however said it is possible that the PA’s movement was seen as offensive by the NPA given that government SOMO and SOPO orders have yet to be announced.

“I presume that there are no deliberate violations of the ceasefire agreement: only two isolated incidents in places distant from each other in the entire archipelago do not mean wilful and systematic violations of ceasefire,” he said.

He added that the NDFP is still awaiting the NPA’s report on the incident.

Davao City mayor wants ceasefire exemption

Meanwhile, Mayor Sara Duterte announced her desire to have Davao City excluded from the scope of the Christmas ceasefire with the NPA, saying the rebels will use the opportunity to regain communities previously cleared of their presence, consolidate their forces and derail the progress of existing rural development projects.

“To be covered by the ceasefire or the peace negotiations will only disrupt and threaten the gains of our process of peace and development in these communities formerly controlled by the terrorists,” Mayor Duterte said in a statement.

Sison criticized the mayor’s demand, saying the local chief executive and Presidential daughter should instead obey her President.

“Does this mean Davao City is an independent queendom? She should just follow her chief executive and commander in chief,” Sison said.

“She should not try to destroy a good thing, the ceasefire agreement,” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)