Holiday truce dims as PNP readies to join AFP offensive

The likelihood of a holiday ceasefire between government troops and communist insurgents are getting dimmer with the Philippine National Police declaring that it is gearing up for a “coordinated offensive” with the military and the rebel leaders vowing to stage counterattacks.

While the Armed Forces of the Philippines condemned a recent attack by the New People’s Army (NPA) on soldiers conducting a humanitarian mission in Northern Samar, PNP Director for Operations Pancratius Cascolan said the police were ready to launch combat patrols with Army troops.

“The PNP high command has mobilized all its tactical and maneuver units for a coordinated offensive alongside the (AFP) against remaining guerrilla fronts of the communist (NPA),” Cascolan said in a statement on Monday.

But in an online interview, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison said the NPA was ready to defend itself and foil government operations during the holidays.

‘Arrogance and bloodlust’

“In view of the arrogance and bloodlust and escalating, though futile, military operations of the Duterte regime at this time, it is safe to estimate that the NPA will do its best to defend itself and do counteroffensives,” said Sison, who is based in the Netherlands.

Military and police officials said they did not see the need to observe the traditional Christmas ceasefire this year, echoing President Duterte’s statement he would not order a truce in light of the escalating offensives by communist rebels.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former PNP chief, on Monday said that there was no need for Malacañang to declare a Christmas truce since the President himself had already declared the insurgents as terrorists.

Lacson noted that Mr. Duterte had issued Proclamation No. 374 declaring the CPP and its armed wing, NPA, as terrorist organizations.

“While the terrorist tag will have to wait for a court declaration, it won’t make sense to suspend military operations,” he said.

The Palace on Sunday stood pat on its decision not to declare a truce with the insurgents.

“The decision not to declare a suspension of military operations with the members of the (NPA) over the Christmas holidays stays,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.

Military commanders said that operations were expected to peak against the CPP-NPA as the communists prepared to mark their 49th founding anniversary on Dec. 26.

Combat patrols

Cascolan told police commanders that “preventive and prophylactic combat patrols in coordination with the AFP should be launched” while directing PNP camps and intallations to boost their defenses.

The PNP statement noted that NPA rebels were known to launch raids, ambuscades and sabotage “on isolated government posts and installations” ahead of the anniversary.

“Offense is always better than defense,” Cascolan said.

When asked if the CPP would order the NPA to observe a ceasefire, Sison said: “It is best for us to wait for the decision of the CPP which has absolute leadership over the NPA. I do not decide on these matters.” –With reports from Delfin T. Mallari Jr. And Philip C. Tubeza

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