The military sees no need for a holiday ceasefire with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army, saying there is no guarantee that rebels would reciprocate given the “leadership vacuum” in the underground movement following the death of CPP founder Jose Ma. Sison.
“We are confident there’s no need for a ceasefire because we don’tknow who to talk to. Many of their leaders have been neutralized,” AFP spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar said in a television interview.
“Second, if we are going to have a bilateral ceasefire with the CPP-NPA-NDF, how can they impose that provision of the ceasefire when there is a leadership vacuum within the underground organization?” he added.
What the AFP can recommend, Aguilar said, is a SOMO or suspension of offensive military operations.
The CPP Central Committee on Monday said there is “absolutely no reason” to implement a ceasefire for the holidays and the group’s 54th anniversary on Dec. 26.
The CPP also ordered the NPA to carry out tactical offensives to honor the 83-year-old Sison, who died in The Netherlands last week where he has lived under a self-imposed exile since 1987.
But even as the military downplayed the strength of the communist rebels – claiming that guerilla fronts have been “reduced” from 89 to 23 – the Philippine National Police is not taking any chances and has beefed up its security measures.
“Of course, we anticipated that the CPP would celebrate its anniversary. That’s why we have intensified our security measures in areas where we have previously monitored their atrocities, in cooperation with our Armed Forces of the Philippines contingents,” PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said in a separate radio interview.
The AFP, Aguilar said, believes that the remaining rebel ranks are no longer capable of conducting any tactical offensives against government troops as their numbers and leadership have been steadily whittled down in the past months.
“We believe that a significant part of the CPP-NPA has lost the capability to conduct tactical offensives as many of their ranking leaders have either been killed in encounters, arrested or have voluntarily surrendered,” he said.
However, Aguilar said the military is prepared to meet the NPA’s tactical offensives head-on should they conduct it.
“Even if the CPP carries out their threat of tactical offensives, the whole AFP is prepared to deal with them,” he said.
The PNP said it will be deploying around 115,000 of its personnel to ensure safe holiday celebrations.
“In total, we will deploy more than 115,000 PNP personnel nationwide to make sure that we will have a safe Christmas this year, especially that we expect the influx of people,” Fajardo said.
Fajardo said 9,000 policemen have already been stationed in major transportation hubs, including ports and airports, to help check passengers’ luggages. Explosive detection dogs and narcotics detection dogs were also put in position.