March 19 ------ The National Democratic Front has balked at reciprocating the ceasefire declared by President Rodrigo Duterte as the Philippines addresses the need to contain COVID-19, which has killed 17 in the country. According to NDF chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison, one of the reasons for the hesitation was the enhanced community quarantine over the whole of Luzon.
"The militarist lockdown on the whole of Luzon is meant not to fight the Covid-19 pandemic but to intimidate the people, suppress democratic rights, commit human rights violations and prevent the working people from going to their workplaces, and immobilize even the health workers and people who wish to tested and treated for COVID-19 and serious ailments," Sison said in a statement. Sison added that the AFP and PNP continued "to redtag, abduct and murder social activists, including human rights defenders, in urban areas and to unleash attacks against the people in the guerrilla fronts of the New People’s Army."
"There is communication going on between the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels. But there is yet no agreement for reciprocal unilateral ceasefires in connection with certain considerations, requirements and modalities," Sison said. "There has to be catch-up on these matters, if still possible. The ceasefire declaration by the GRP or the Duterte regime is premature, if not insincere and false," he added. Duterte has declared a ceasefire with the communist rebels on Wednesday.
The unilateral ceasefire will take effect on March 19 and will expire on April 15, according to presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo. “The President has directed the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), together with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), to cease and desist from carrying out offensive military and police operations during the ceasefire period,” Panelo said.
“Through this ceasefire, the Philippine government aspires that the swift provision of public health assistance goes unimpeded with the movement of health workers and medical supplies to communities, as well as of people in need of immediate medical attention remains unhampered.”