President Duterte has unexpectedly declared a unilateral ceasefire with communist rebels for Christmas.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made the announcement today (Wednesday, December 20), just days after the Malacañang had dismissed any possibility of a seasonal truce with the New People’s Army (NPA).
Mr Roque said the ceasefire would run from Christmas Eve until January 2. He added that the Palace expects the communist rebels to return the favour.
He said: “This unilateral ceasefire would lessen the apprehension of the public this Christmas season. We expect that they would do a similar gesture of goodwill.
“Christmas holds a special place in the hearts of our countrymen. In the observance of this occasion, we hope that all Filipinos would stand together as one nation and aspire for peace in our beloved Philippines.”
On Sunday, the president said he was not keen on declaring a Christmas truce with the rebels following continued attacks against state security forces. He was particularly angered by an attack on soldiers who were assisting civilians in the wake of Tropical Storm Urduja.
However, he confirmed today that the truce would be “out of consideration for the well-being of the Filipino people”.
He said: “Look, if 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 na walang stress. They may say ‘no ceasefire’. Then you put a lot of strain on the people. I will think about it. That would be my primary consideration.”
Before the ceasefire
Earlier this week, the president criticised the NPA – which he has recently reclassified as a terrorist organisation – for invoking the Geneva Convention.
Describing the internationally recognised rules of engagement as “passé”, he said: “I’ll be forced to take harsh measures … It could be something like, ‘I’ll do what you do to me’.”
He also accused the NPA of being reduced to banditry and sexually harassing women, and ordered the military and police to “give no quarter” against the rebels.
“My directive to the police and to the Armed Forces is to give you no quarter. No quarters asked, no quarters given,” he added, addressing the rebels.
“I’m sick and tired of talking to you. You are like the Islamic State.”
In response, the NPA in southern Mindanao has vowed to fight for the removal from office of the “madman and Adolf Hitler of the South”.