The military on Sunday urged communist rebels to go down from the hills and spend a meaningful Christmas with their families after the government declared an 18-day unilateral truce with the New People’s Army (NPA) that started December 16 and ends on January 2. “The very purpose of the enforcement of the Suspension of Military Operations (SOMO) is for them (rebels) to have the opportunity to spend the Christmas season with their families. Go down and be with your family this Yuletide season,” military spokesman Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr. said in a public message to the rebels.
The leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has yet to reciprocate the military’s unilateral truce, although the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Mindanao has already ordered New People’s Army (NPA) units in typhoon-stricken areas to stop tactical offensives against government forces helping in the relief and rescue operations. The NDF-Mindanao implemented its own truce starting on December 5 until Jan. 2. 2012.
Under the military’s SOMO, the conduct of deliberate offensives such as combat operations, meant to degrade the armed capability or seize NPA encampments, are prohibited. “These are what the Armed Forces can do like security patrols within the necessary protective radius which is aimed to protect communities, government establishments, investment and economic facilities, vital structures and of course military camps and detachments,” Burgos explained.
Peace talks between the government and the NDF have stalled since February 2011 after the latter accused the government of violating the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) with the series of arrests of its “peace consultants”. Recently, President Benigno Aquino III moved again to revive peace negotiations with the CPP-NPA-NDF after the government’s initial success in prodding the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to sign the Framework Agreement (FRAG) to end the decades-old armed conflict in Mindanao.