A CHRISTMAS ceasefire between the government and communist rebels may be declared from December 26 to 29 pending a declaration of a permanent bilateral ceasefire, a senior Cabinet official said Wednesday.
“On the 26 up to 29. But I think it will continue until New Year,” Labor Secretary and government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III said in a media interview at Phnom Penh.
Bello, who leads the government efforts to strike a more permanent peace deal with the Communist Party of the Philippines, said the government ceasefire committee is trying to arrive at a consensus with communist rebels on the definition of terms and conditions that will cover the proposed joint permanent ceasefire.
“If we agree on the definition of terms like what is considered a hostile act; or what, where is the buffer zone where their forces can get in or out and where our forces can get in or out; and they can agree on who the referees are in case of violations, then we will be ready to sign a bilateral permanent ceasefire,” Bello said.
The military and police, meanwhile, said they were investigating four incidents of bus burnings in Sarangani and South Cotabato to determine if the New People’s Army or any criminal group was behind them.
The latest incident involved an air-conditioned Yellow Bus, which was torched at 6:30 p.m. in Purok Pioneer, Barangay Poblacion, Sto. Niño, South Cotabato.
Capt. Marvin Gammad, civil military officer of he 27th Infantry Battalion, said the bus was traveling from Isulan, Sultan Kudarat to Koronadal City when it was torched.
He said eight of the suspects posed as passengers and the two others who had the gallons of gasoline just waited at the place were the bus driver was stopped at gunpoint.
“According to the driver and the conductor, the suspects introduced themselves as NPA,” Gamad said in a phone interview.
He said the motive of the arson was extortion.
“This was already the fourth incident of burning, all of them Yellow buses,” Gammad said.
He said the two burnings happened in November in Kyamba, Sarangani.
Two others happened this month in Tupi, Sto. Niño and Tantangan towns in South Cotabato.
In Manila, Mayor Joseph Estrada on Wednesday ordered the Manila Police District to deploy as many policemen as possible to ensure that churches in the city will be under tight guard, particularly during the traditional simbang gabi.
The city of Taguig is also taking action to ensure a peaceful holiday season, with the police intensifying their monitoring of shopping malls, banks and other establishments where there are many people gathered.
“Police’s visibility will also be increased by establishing Police Assistant Desks (PAD) in churches as the traditional simbang gabi (dawn masses) starts on December 15,” said Senior Supt. Allen Ocden, Taguig City chief of police for operations.
He added there are eight Taguig Police Community Precincts, but during the holidays additional personnel will be deployed for beat patrol. With Florante S. Solmerin, Joel E. Zurbano and Sandy Araneta