VIGAN CITY — The reciprocal holiday ceasefire between the revolutionary movement led by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) can now “proceed effectively.”

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) made the pronouncement following receipt of Suspension of Offensive Military Operations (SOMO) and Suspension of Offensive Police Operations (SOPO) on December 26 at 8:54 am (Dutch time).

According to the NDFP Negotiating Panel, the Chief of Staff Armed Forces of the Philippines Lt. Gen. Noel Clement issued the SOMO on December 24. Meanwhile, the Officer-in-Charge of the Philippine National Police (PNP) made the order on December 22. The memorandum from the Department of Interior Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año followed this issuance on December 23.

“We thank Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III for sending to us the above-mentioned documents. We hope that from hereon the unilateral and reciprocal ceasefires declared by the two Parties shall proceed effectively,” the NDFP panel said in a statement.

In an earlier statement, following two reported clashes between the New People’s Army (NPA) and government troops in Bicol and Iloilo, NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili clarified the terms of the unilateral ceasefire issued by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). He said the truce takes effect only upon a reciprocal pronouncement from the government. The NDFP leader noted that the firefights were the result of defensive actions by communist guerillas against offensives by the police and military. He also informed the public that they have not received copies of the SOMO and SOPO days after President Rodrigo Duterte reciprocated their holiday truce order.

The reciprocal ceasefire for the Yuletide Season is part of the confidence building measures to jump-start the peace negotiations unilaterally terminated by the Duterte government in November 2017. It was the result of the recent backchannel talks after the president expressed interest to continue talking peace with the communist rebels.

Año and Defense chief Delfin Lorenzana have consistently expressed disapproval on the continuance of the peace negotiations. In addition, despite issuing the SOPO and with the possible resumption of the peace negotiations, the DILG-PNP organized a nationwide rally against the NPA led by police personnel and local government officials on December 26, coinciding with the CPP’s 51st anniversary. # nordis.net

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