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Church leaders express alarm at ‘reign of unpeace’ during Advent

Church leaders expressed alarm and concern at the deteriorating prospects for peace as shown by the Rodrigo Duterte government’s demonization of human rights.

In a pastoral statement, the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) said that while the Advent season has arrived, “unpeace” reigns as the Rodrigo Duterte government continues to consider human rights as a barrier to peace and order.

“This is evident in the arrests of a journalist and six union organizers on the day when the whole world was commemorating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” the church leaders said.

Several activists have also been arrested or killed in the past few months while numerous lives continue to be claimed under the campaign against illegal drugs, they added.

The statement was signed by Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro Bishop Emeritus and PEPP co-chairperson Antonio Ledesma; Bishop and PEPP co-chairperson Rex B. Reye; Bishop and National Council of Churches in the Philippines general secretary Reuel Norman Marigza; Sr. Mary John Mananzan, OSB of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines; Justice, Peace and Reconciliation Commission executive director Reverend Dr. Aldrin Penamora; and PEPP head of secretariat Bishop Emeritus Deogracias Iniguez Jr.

The church leaders pointed out that the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) had been relentless in its malicious red-tagging of organizations and individuals critical of the government, including churches and church personalities, by falsely accusing them of being linked to terrorism.

They blamed the harmful rhetoric coming from President Duterte himself.

“This is in sharp contrast with the advent period a year ago when back channel negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) resulted in a Christmas ceasefire which redounded to a hopeful atmosphere for peace,” the pastoral statement said.

No ceasefire

President Duterte announced last December 7 that there will no longer be ceasefire declarations nor peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People’s Army and the NDFP as long as he is president.

His announcement followed the repeated and public announcements by the Armed Forces of the Philippines that it will never recommend the declaration of ceasefire with the Communist groups.

The CPP in turn announced Wednesday, December 16, it is impossible for them to issue the traditional  ceasefire declaration over Christmas and New Year while government troops terrorize civilian communities and conduct intense military operations against their revolutionary forces.

The CPP ordered the NPA to actively defend civilians and their ranks from AFP military operations throughout the holiday season as well as urge its members to secretly observe its 52nd founding anniversary on December 26.

‘Silence guns during season of hope’

While calling on both parties to “silence the guns during this season of hope,” the PEPP pointed out that the Duterte government’s rejection of the results of the back channel talks during this COVID-19 pandemic is what brought about the state of unpeace.

“[It] unilaterally stopped the peace negotiations, and proceeded to heighten its war against the NDFP, the New People’s Army (NPA), and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and its so-called ‘legal fronts’, the group said.

“Since then, three NDFP consultants – Randal Echanis and Eugenia Magpantay and Agaton Topacio — were killed, while many others like Rey Claro Casambre of the Philippine Peace Center remain in jail. Even former NDFP Consultant Alfredo Mapano, who was already working for the government, was re-arrested,” it added.

The PEPP pointed out that the government is set for an all-out war in 2021 with the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act while substantial funds were also designated for its counter-insurgency program with P19-billion set aside for the NTF-ELCAC.

The PEPP however said such policies will only further fan the flames of the armed conflict.

“This drive to annihilate the CPP-NPA-NDF without seriously addressing the long-standing issues of poverty, landlessness and inequality in the country, will not bring about a just and enduring peace,” the church leaders said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Duterte red-tags late mother in yet another invective-laced rant

Even his late mother is not spared from President Rodrigo Duterte’s red-tagging and invective-filled rants.

In his late-night address Monday, December 7, Duterte revealed the late Mrs. Soledad Roa Duterte regularly met with alleged Communists who have plotted for the downfall of a sitting president.

“Ang hindi ko alam, ‘yung nanay ko, may pagka-aktibista…Every weekend makita ko sila sa bahay, doon sa terrace. May mga madre, ganoon. Nagmi-meeting. Akala ko, nagdadasal ang mga y***.  Iyon pala p***** i**!” Duterte said.

(What I did not know, my mother was herself a bit of an activist. Every weekend, she met with them at our terrace. There were nuns and others. They had meetings. I thought the devils were praying. But, son-of-a-bitch!)

Duterte said that her mother “was really passionate about good government.”

The late Soledad was active in anti-tyranny struggles in Southern Mindanao even if her late husband Vicente Duterte was Davao Province governor and said to be allied with then president Ferdinand Marcos.

Popularly called Nanay Soling, the President’s mother led the Yellow Friday Movement, a regional group credited for having helped oust the dictator in 1986.

Soledad is immortalized as a hero at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani for her role in restoring democracy in the country.

Among those President Duterte identified as Soledad’s comrades were Fr. Orlando Tizon, a Roman Catholic priest who reportedly joined the underground Communist movement.

Tizon died four years ago.

Duterte also named his former Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. as among those who regularly met with his mother’s group.

Like Tizon, Evasco is a Roman Catholic priest who joined the Communist underground and the New People’s Army.

Both were political detainees in Davao.

In his latest Monday night address, Duterte intensified his verbal attacks against those he accuses of being Communists, including the two priests and those he described as his former friends.

“I am identifying you because I have seen the records. You are really Communists…So I have to destroy you,” Duterte said.

Duterte also said there will no longer be ceasefires between his government and the New People’s Army even during the Christmas and New Year season.

Duterte also said there is no chance that the stalled peace negotiations between his administration and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines would be revived in the remaining two years that he is President. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

CPP orders NPA to shift to ‘offensive posture’ after ceasefire order ends

There is no more ceasefire in effect in the country after the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) announced it has decided against re-extending its truce order that expired midnight Thursday.

“The refusal of the Duterte regime to relent in its attacks against the NPA (New People’s Army), despite calls for a ‘global ceasefire’ has made the further extension of the NPA ceasefire impossible,” the CPP said in a statement.

The CPP’s 36-day ceasefire was first declared last March 24 and was extended when it ended last April 15. The government’s first and only ceasefire declaration under the ongoing coronavirus pandemic started last March 19 and ended on April 15.

In a recorded address aired last Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte said he will never be ready for any round of peace talks with the CPP, accusing the NPA of attacking soldiers in Ma. Aurora Town in Aurora Province who were escorting a relief operation connected with the government’s Luzon-wide lockdown.

The CPP however denied the allegation, saying the AFP was in fact conducting a counter-insurgency operation, as it did throughout the ceasefire periods.

“Since Duterte called for a ceasefire on March 16, AFP counterinsurgency operations remain unabated, deploying its units in at least 396 villages in 148 towns, ceaselessly conducting combat operations, aerial bombardments and artillery shelling, aerial surveillance and ground intelligence operations, arresting civilians, and violating people’s rights with impunity,” the CPP said.

The CPP said that in more than a month since both parties declared their unilateral ceasefire orders, the AFP mounted at least 36 raids against NPA encampments in 23 provinces that resulted in at least 11 armed encounters.

The group claimed the AFP suffered at least 56 casualties, 31 of whom were killed in action.

On the part of the NPA, 18 Red fighters were killed while eight were wounded, the CPP reported.

The military operations happened in Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Antique, Bohol, Bukidnon, Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental, Davao del Norte, Iloilo, Lanao del Sur, Masbate, Negros Occidental, Northern Samar, Quezon, Rizal, Samar, Sorsogon, South Cotabato, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur provinces, the group added.

The CPP commended its armed wing for “successfully defending themselves and the masses and thwarting the raids and treacherous attacks mounted by the AFP in their relentless counterinsurgency operations.”

Starting today, Friday, May 1, the CPP has ordered the NPA to shift from “active defense” to an “offensive posture” in anticipation of more attacks against its forces.

‘Offensive posture’

In shifting to an offensive posture, the CPP urged the NPA to be always ready to strike against the AFP, Philippine National Police and the paramilitary forces under the Civilian Auxiliary Force Geographical Unit as well as other armed groups of the government.

“The NPA must mount tactical offensives especially against the most notorious human rights violators and those who have subjected people to abuse. The NPA must target the isolated and weak units and detachments of the AFP and its armed auxiliaries,” the CPP ordered.

While getting ready to meet the AFP’s counter-insurgency operations, the CPP also urged the NPA to continue its anti-COVID health services and information drives in various communities. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Church group calls on gov’t to reciprocate CPP’s truce extension

A church-based group asked the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) to heed the Easter call of Pope Francis for “an immediate ceasefire in all corners of the world” by reciprocating the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) extension of its truce order.

In a statement, the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) also called on the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to open the doors to resume the stalled peace talks “especially in the face of an uncertain future brought about by this Covid-19 pandemic.”

The PEPP said that despite accusations from both side that each has violated their respective unilateral ceasefire declarations that simultaneously expired last before midnight of Wednesday, April 15, it still believes that the ceasefires may lead to “healing” and can only provide a good environment for the unhampered flow of services to the Filipino people during the lockdown.

A reciprocal declaration of truce orders may also pave the way for both side to again engage in “principled dialogue toward lasting peace,” it added.

The PEPP statement, signed by Roman Catholic Archbishop Antonio Ledesma and Anglican Bishop Rex Reyes, was issued after the CPP announced its order to extend its unilateral ceasefire declaration to April 30.

The PEPP also volunteered to provide custodial guarantee to vulnerable and elderly prisoners, such as several NDFP consultants, it said should be released on humanitarian grounds as reports of contagion and deaths of detainees have hit various prisons.

“PEPP stands by our longstanding offer to enable and facilitate a conducive atmosphere for restarting the peace talks by providing custodial guarantee through the church network of PEPP should the process of Release on Recognizance be followed in relation to the detained consultants of the NDFP,” it said.

“We call on President Rodrigo Duterte to put a heavy premium on peace and the release on humanitarian grounds the vulnerable during this time of crisis. Today, more than ever—as our nation and the whole world prays for healing—is the time to ‘seek peace and pursue it,” PEPP said, quoting the Bible.

AFP offensives continue

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) however said military offensives against the New People’s Army (NPA) have resumed as of April 16.

AFP spokesperson Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo told reporters last Friday, April 17, the military offensives shall continue even as the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

Malacañan Palace’s has yet to react to efforts by Kodao to seek its comment on the CPP’s truce order extension.

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison on the hand said he highly appreciates PEPP’s appeal to Duterte to reciprocate the unilateral ceasefire order of the CPP to the NPA, to release the political prisoners on recognizance to the church leaders, and to pave the way for the resumption of peace negotiations.

“I hope that Duterte heeds the appeal of the PEPP. The war hawks of the Duterte regime and the military violate Duterte’s own avowal for healing,” Sison said.

He added that the AFP has only shown “their hatred for the people by denying the violations of their own ceasefire and by launching more offensives against the NPA and the people at the time of the Covid-19 contagion. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

CPP extends truce order despite complaints of GRP ceasefire violations

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) extended its unilateral ceasefire until the end of the month to concentrate on its efforts to help contain the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement Thursday, April 16, the CPP said its Central Committee has ordered the extension for 15 more days starting April 15 “prioritize the fight against the pandemic and ensure the safety, health and well-being of everyone.”

The extended ceasefire order is effective until 11:59 p.m. of April 30

“The CPP ordered the units of the NPA (New People’s Army) and the people’s militias to continue to desist and cease from carrying out offensive military actions against the armed units and personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP) and other paramilitary and armed groups attached to the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP),” its information office said in a statement.

The group said the aim of the ceasefire extension is to ensure quick and unimpeded support to all people requiring urgent medical, health and socioeconomic assistance in the face of the public emergency over the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Party said all its revolutionary forces are ever ready to cooperate with all other forces and elements to achieve this objective.

Meanwhile, the CPP leadership commended all units of the NPA and people’s militias for their discipline in observing the ceasefire order and shifting priority to the anti-Covid-19 campaign.

It said that the Party’s ceasefire order has been observed “despite the difficulties and dangers brought about by the continuing occupation of AFP combat troops of guerrilla zones and base areas, the widespread and intense intelligence and psywar (psychological warfare) operations, and the attacks mounted by the AFP’s strike forces against detected NPA units.”

The CPP Central Committee reminded all NPA units to “maintain strictest secrecy” and not allow themselves to be exposed to AFP attacks.

The recent armed encounters which the AFP misreport as NPA ceasefire violations are all a result of the offensive actions of the AFP, it alleged.

The ceasefire extension order came after the National Democratic Front of the Philippines wrote to United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres complaining of violations by the Rodrigo Duterte administration of the government’s own unilateral ceasefire declaration of March 19 to April 15.

The AFP conducted military operations in 196 villages and 96 towns throughout the Philippines, the NDFP said quoting CPP reports.

In its statement, the CPP also reiterated the call for the “urgent release” and for declaring a general amnesty for all political prisoners.

It also expressed desire for the resumption of the NDFP-GRP peace negotiations.

“During the ceasefire period, all NPA units must strictly limit themselves to active defense operations which shall be carried out only in the face of imminent danger and actual armed attacks by the enemy forces,” the CPP reiterated.

The GRP has yet to comment on whether it would extend its own ceasefire declaration which has expired before midnight Wednesday, April 15. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Reds report to UN on GRP truce violations

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) has reported to the United Nations (UN) the Philippine government’s alleged violations to its unilateral ceasefire declaration committed while much of the country is under a coronavirus lockdown.

As the Duterte government and the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) respective unilateral ceasefire declarations expired Wednesday night, April 15, the NDFP said in a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that the government’s violations are in defiance of the global body’s request for all warring parties to temporary lay down arms to concentrate on fighting the pandemic.

NDFP Executive Committee and National Council member Luis Jalandoni told Guterres in a letter that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have mounted 13 attacks or assaults against the New People’s Army (NPA) and conducted at least five aerial bombardments and artillery shelling throughout the country between March 19 to April 15.

The attacks happened in 196 villages in 96 towns nationwide, he said.

Jalandoni’s letter quoted a report from the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Information Bureau, alleging that the Duterte government conducted so-called security patrols that targeted “resting units of the NPA in their areas.”

“Despite claims by the AFP of NPA violations of its ceasefire, it is clear from all reports of the AFP that it was their combat units which were on attack mode,” CPP information officer Marco Valbuena said in his report.

The AFP also conducted at least five aerial bombing and artillery shelling operations on March 17, March 24 and March 27-29 in Davao del Norte, Davao de Oro and Bukidnon provinces, all in the southern island of Mindanao, Valbuena added.

“Purportedly conducting Covid-19 related activities, GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) armed troops roam around civilian communities, set up checkpoints, prohibit people from buying food and other necessities, prevent peasants from tending to their crops, enter people’s homes, accuse them of being armed fighters or NPA supporters, and compel them to ‘surrender’ lest they remain in the military’s ‘list,’” Valbuena reported.

There are several incidents of arrests of peasants, including the detention of 11 indigenous farmers in Pantukan town (Davao de Oro province in Mindanao), as well as the arrest of a 71-year old peasant leader Proceso Torralba in Butuan City, accused of being an NPA member, he added.

Jalandoni’s letter to Guterres was dated April 13 and was also furnished to UN Secretary-General spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.

‘NPA compliant with UN’

In his letter, Jalandoni also said that the NPA has complied fully with the unilateral ceasefire order of the CPP in response to the humanitarian appeal of Guterres for parties involved in armed conflicts to declare a global ceasefire in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic.

The health committees and the revolutionary forces of the New People’s Army, the CPP and the entire NDFP continue to carry out programs in all 73 provinces where the NDFP forces operate, Jalandoni said. 

“The NPA refrains from undertaking attacks against the GRP’s armed forces. The NPA is observing an active defense policy to protect the community from the serious violations of the GRP’s armed forces,” Jalandoni said.

Jalandoni added that the NDFP National Council has deeply valued the UN’s appreciation of the unilateral ceasefire issued by the CPP on March 24 in response to Guterres’ call for a global ceasefire among warring parties to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

Jalandoni added that the NDFP is committed to continuing its programs throughout the country to protect the people against the pandemic as well as the Philippine government’s violations of its unilateral ceasefire in defense of the Filipino people’s fundamental human rights.

He said the NDFP National Council, the CPP and the NPA shall decide on whether to issue another truce order as both the CPP and the GRP’s respective ceasefire declarations simultaneously ended before midnight Thursday, April 16. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

GRP and CPP ceasefire orders unlikely to be extended

The ceasefire orders of both the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) are set to expire before midnight tonight, Wednesday, April 15, but both camps are silent on whether to extend the truce orders or not.

After each declaring unilateral ceasefire orders to focus on their respective anti-coronavirus disease (Covid-19) campaigns, the government and the revolutionary forces are unlikely to extend their separate truce declarations due to reports of violations mainly by GRP forces.

President Rodrigo Duterte has not revealed his plans on the whether to extend his truce order or not during  his third Bayanihan To Heal As One weekly report late Monday evening, April 13.

Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana has also failed to reply to queries from reporters on whether he would recommend extending the government’s ceasefire order.

The GRP declared the suspension of military and police operations against the New People’s Army (NPA) last March 19 after Duterte said he wants the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) to concentrate in helping the government contain Covid-19’s spread throughout the country.

Heeding the request of United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres for all warring parties to temporary lay down arms to concentrate on fighting the pandemic, the CPP issued its own truce order last March 23.

CPP’s move won praises from both the GRP and the UN.

The CPP information office said it is still awaiting official word from the party’s Central Committee on whether it would extend its unilateral ceasefire declaration or not.

Both ceasefire orders end at 11:59 tonight.

Ceasefire violations in 25 provinces

Both the AFP and the CPP accused each other of violating their own truce orders.

The AFP was first to accuse the NPA of violating the CPP’s ceasefire declaration after an encounter in  Barangay Puray in Rodriguez, Rizal last March 28.

A military spot report however revealed it was the Philippine Army, “acting on the information from concerned citizens,” that initiated the 40-minute clash that resulted in the death of one NPA fighter and a government trooper. Two more Philippine Army soldiers were wounded.

On March 31, another NPA unit in Barangay Mabunga, Gumaca, Quezon was attacked by a unit of the AFP’s 59th Infantry Battalion (IB). Another Philippine Army spot report said the unit acted on tips from concerned citizens in launching the operation.

On April 1, another NPA unit was attacked by the 85th IB in Barangay Ilayang Yuni, Mulanay, Quezon.

On April 2, another NPA encampment in Barangay Balagon, Silay, Zamboanga Sibugay was raided by troops of the 44th IB. The same AFP unit raided another NPA camp in Barangay Peñaranda, Kabasalan in the same province.

The AFP has launched military operations in 25 provinces covering nearly 90 municipalities and more than 150 villages nationwide throughout the duration of the ceasefire declarations, the CPP reported.

The incidents range from attacks on NPA encampments, aerial bombings, shelling, and militarization of civilian communities, the CPP said.

The group said the AFP was in direct contempt of the UN’s request as well as the orders of their commander in chief Rodrigo Duterte.

‘Continuous violations and offensives without let-up’

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said the AFP’s and the GRP’s “ceaseless offensives” are making useless and unnecessary the extension by the CPP and the NPA of their ceasefire declaration.

Instead, Sison said the NPA units all over the country need to stay alert “to have freedom of action to counter in every necessary way the offensives being conducted by their merciless enemy.”

Sison added that the NPA may refrain from attacking AFP soldiers only in areas under their full control and where their enemy is not taking any offensive action even without a generalized ceasefire declaration.

“At any rate, it is up to the CPP to decide whether the ceasefire is to be extended, upon the recommendation of the NDFP if any,” Sison said.

He added that the NDFP has already informed the UN secretary general of the Duterte government’s violation of their own ceasefire declaration.

CPP information officer Marco Valbuena for his part told Kodao that all units of the NPA remain on alert and await orders and instructions from the CPP high leadership. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

PhilArmy drops counter-insurgency leaflets on towns on Easter Sunday, earns condemnations

The Philippine Army dropped counter-insurgency leaflets on Sagada and Besao towns in Mountain Province on Easter Sunday, April 12, in what appears to be another violation of the government’s own ceasefire declaration.

Photographs posted by an indigenous people’s rights advocate show leaflets being dropped on the popular mountain resort town of Sagada by two UH1J Huey helicopters placed inside cellophane wrappers that also contained candies as ballasts.

Photo by Beverly Longid via Twitter.

Beverly Longid, a staff member of the International Indigenous People’s Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation, posted several photos of the leaflets accusing the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People’s Army (NPA) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) of using country’s lockdown as an opportunity to recruit more members through corona virus disease (Covid-19) health interventions.

The leaflets, dropped between 8:30 and 11:30 in the morning also urged NPA fighters, particularly those who suspect themselves to be Covid-19 positive, to surrender.

Photo by B. Longid via Twitter.

“The military unit deployed in Sagada is the 54th [Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army] which has been responsible for red-tagging, political vilification of legitimate organizations and human rights violations including the frustrated extrajudicial killing of Chinese-American Brandon Lee in Ifugao,” Longid tweeted.

Longid said the two helicopters may have spent more than Php200 thousand in aviation fuel, excluding the production costs of the leaflets in its Easter Sunday operation.

She said that a Huey helicopter uses up Php110 thousand of fuel per hour while airborne.

One of Beverly Longid’s tweets on the incident.

The government’s unilateral ceasefire declaration is effective from March 19 to April 14 that suspends military and police operations against the CPP, NPA and NDFP.

The Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) denounced the incident, saying the military only succeeded in terrorizing the communities and wasting public funds in spreading “recycled black propaganda materials.”

The CPA also revealed that the 54th IB operates overly-strict checkpoints in the entire province that intimidate residents.

The group also said that the 15 alleged surrenderees the military presented last March 29 in Bauko town were “fake” and “recycled”.

“According to residents of Barangay Bangnen, Bauko, the so-called surrenderees were local residents were forced by the military to say they were NPA supporters,” the group said.

The CPA said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) uses the Luzon-wide lockdown as an opportunity to implement its counter-insurgency campaign through red-tagging and fake surrenders.

The group accused the AFP of profiting from producing their propaganda materials and “fake surrenderrees” activities while many families are starving because of the lockdown.

CPA urged the government to spend its counter-insurgency budget on buying personal protective equipment for the front line workers, mass testing and other medical services.

It added that the government should give its promised P5,500 to affected families using the military’s counter-insurgency budget as well as President Rodrigo Duterte’s Php 4.5B intelligence fund.

The 54th IB and Philippine Army websites are silent on the Easter Sunday incident. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

AFP violation of gov’t ceasefire order results in another clash; Philippine Army trooper killed

The military’s continuing operations against the New People’s Army (NPA) despite the issuance of unilateral ceasefire orders by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) resulted in yet another clash Tuesday morning.

A Philippine Army trooper was killed in a fire fight at 5:45 a.m. of April 7 at Sitio Agilan, Barangay Panuran, Lambunao, Iloilo province, an army official said.

In a radio interview, 3rd Infantry Division spokesperson Captain Cenon Pancito III said their soldiers were patrolling the area when the encounter happened.

A spot report on the incident says soldiers led by one 2Lt. Roel Duran were conducting “pre-emptive security patrol” when they encountered more or less 20 NPA guerrillas.

The report says the guerrillas withdrew toward Barangays Aglobong, Agracope and Panuran in Janiuay town, Iloilo.

The casualty held the rank of Private First Class, the report reads.

The Iloilo fire fight followed similar incidents in Rizal, Quezon and Zamboanga Sibugay provinces, all happening after the GRP’s unilateral ceasefire declaration of March 19 and the CPP’s own unilateral ceasefire order last March 23.

Both ceasefire orders end on April 15.

The CPP said all three previous fire fights were instigated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in disobedience to the orders of their commander in chief President Rodrigo Duterte.

The CPP also said that AFP military offensives are “in direct contempt” of the United Nations’ please for all warring parties to temporarily lay down arms while the world grapples with the corona virus disease.

The underground party also accused the AFP of conducting aerial bombing, shelling, and troop deployments that terrorize peasant and Lumad communities in Davao del Norte and Bukidnon provinces.

[What went before: AFP bombing spree in Mindanao disobeys Duterte’s Covid-19 ceasefire order, Reds report]

The CPP for its part said it will not attack members of the military who are conducting public health activities but will remain “in active defense” if attacked by AFP soldiers. # (Raymund B. Villanueva, with reports from panaytoday.net)

CPP: Gov’t in contempt of UN’s global ceasefire plea with ‘non-stop combat operations’

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) accused the Rodrigo Duterte government of violating its unilateral ceasefire declaration and is “in direct contempt” of the United Nations request for a global ceasefire amid the corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

In a statement, the CPP said state armed forces continue to mount “non-stop combat operations” against the New People’s Army in at least 63 towns and cities, covering 97 rural villages across the country.

“[Government] Military and police units across the country have continued to carry out relentless offensives despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire declaration which covers the period March 19 to April 15,” Marco Valbuena, CPP chief information officer, said.

The government’s counterinsurgency operations has resulted in a series of armed encounters and widespread violation of human rights violations, Valbuena added.

“Over the past three weeks, state forces attacked and raided at least seven NPA encampments in the provinces of Rizal, Quezon, Bukidnon and Zamboanga Sibugay,” Valbuena said.

The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) also conducted airstrikes and artillery shelling in Davao del Norte, Davao de Oro and Bukidnon, Valbuena reported.

In a separate statement last Saturday, the CPP said there have been at least seven clashes since the separate ceasefire declarations by the CPP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, all reportedly instigated by the military.

On March 17, an NPA unit in Sitio Bendum, Barangay Busdi, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon province was reportedly attacked by the elements of the 85th Infantry Battalion (IP) of the Philippine Army.

On the same day, another unit of the NPA was attacked by a units of the AFP 1st Special Forces Battalion in Mt. Kitanglad, Bukidnon.

On March 28, an NPA unit encamped in the mountainous part of Barangay Pungay, Rodriguez, Rizal was attacked by a unit of the 80th IB.

On March 31, another NPA unit in Barangay Mabunga, Gumaca, Quezon was attacked by a unit of the AFP’s 59th IB. The CPP said the government military unit has been conducting non-stop combat operations in at least five towns in Quezon province.

On April 1, another NPA unit was attacked by the 85th IB in Barangay Ilayang Yuni, Mulanay, Quezon.

Last Thursday, April 2, another NPA encampment unit in Barangay Balagon, Silay, Zamboanga Sibugay was raided by troops of the 44th IB. The same AFP unit raided another NPA camp in Barangay Peñaranda, Kabasalan in the same province.

On the other hand, all NPA units have complied with the CPP declaration, Valbuena said, adding however the guerrilla units are on “extra alert” in the face of the attacks from state forces.

The CPP issued its unilateral ceasefire declaration in response to the call of the United Nations for a global ceasefire that took effect on March 26 and will last until April 15.

According to the CPP, the ceasefire should give all NPA units the opportunity to carry out a public health campaign to help the masses surmount the Covid-19 epidemic.

Units of the NPA are conducting information drives, and campaigns for sanitation and personal hygiene, the CPP said.

Duterte said his government’s unilateral ceasefire order would allow the AFP and the Philippine National Police to focus on defeating the Covid-19 pandemic. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)