President Rodrigo Duterte declared Tuesday night a suspension of military operations (SOMO) from December 24, 2017 to January 2, 2018, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque told reporters Wednesday morning.
Meant to “lessen the apprehension of the public this Christmas season,” Roque said the government expects the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) to “do a similar gesture of goodwill.”
The Philippine Star reported that in a chance interview, Duterte was asked if his earlier decision not to declare a ceasefire with the communists was final.
“[I]f I declare a ceasefire, it is not addressed to the NPAs. Rather, I would want to celebrate Christmas with the rest of humankind or Filipinos, without stress,” Duterte replied.
“The ceasefire is a unilateral action of government to refrain from attacking. A lot of people are going around, even at night, enjoying Christmas day or whatever. Going to Masses,” Duterte said.
“I do not want to add more strain to what people are now suffering,” he added while attending the wake of a police officer in Pasig City.
Hours later, Malacañan released Duterte’s SOMO announcement, Star reported.
The move is a turnaround to earlier pronouncements that Duterte will not declare a ceasefire with the rebels, as the President is “tired of talking to the communists.”
“The decision not to declare a SOMO with the members of the NPA over the Christmas holidays stays,” Roque told reporters Sunday.
In the same interview, however, Roque revealed there was a slim chance Duterte would change his mind.
“We do not discount possibilities that there may be circumstances that may arise for government to reconsider its present position,” Roque said.
Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire declaration covers Christmas and New Year celebrations as well as the CPP’s 49th founding anniversary commemoration on December 26.
The CPP has yet to issue a response to Duterte’s SOMO declaration. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)