Aquino calls 26-day truce
MANILA, Philippines—President Benigno Aquino III on Friday declared a 26-day ceasefire with communist rebels to provide typhoon-devastated communities a chance to have “healing and rebuilding” following the back-to-back disasters that hit the country in the latter part of the year.
The ceasefire took effect midnight of Dec. 20, 2013, and will last until Jan. 15, 2014, according to Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, who announced the suspension of offensive military operations via a text message to reporters.
“The President has approved the recommendation … on the suspension of offensive military operations effective midnight 20 December 2013 until 15 January 2014,” Coloma said.
The President imposed the truce based on the recommendation of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (Opapp).
In a statement issued Friday, Peace Process Adviser Teresita Quintos-Deles explained that the “unilateral Christmas ceasefire” imposed by the government would “allow those in conflict areas, whether soldier, rebel or civilian, safe passage to celebrate Advent with their families, far from all harm.”
The nationwide Christmas ceasefire will “commence at 12:01 a.m. of Dec. 21, 2013, and end at 11:59 p.m. of Jan. 15, 2014,” Deles said.
“By this declaration, the Armed Forces of the Philippines is directed to suspend all offensive military operations for the entire duration of the Christmas ceasefire. (But) our security forces will maintain their defensive readiness in the protection of our people,” the Opapp official said.
“This year, a Christmas ceasefire gains added urgency with the call for healing and rebuilding that resonate in this season and its promise of a new life to all,” Deles said, adding that in a span of three months, Filipinos had to contend with major tragedies that left the nation “deeply traumatized.”
The Opapp official cited the onslaught of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in the Eastern Visayas region which, she said, “stretched our nation, indeed all our minds and hearts, to its limits.”
The truce “presents to our country and people the chance to start afresh,” Deles said.
Bautista had earlier scoffed at an announcement Wednesday of a holiday truce by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army.
The truce announced by the rebels runs from Dec. 24 to 26, 2013, and from Dec. 31, 2013, to Jan. 2, 2014.
The AFP chief said the CPP ceasefire amounted to practically nothing in terms of pursuing peace efforts.
“They declared such a short (ceasefire). They even bothered to declare it,” the chief of staff said, adding that what he wanted to hear from the communist rebels was an indefinite truce, not a ceasefire that won’t even last a week.