MANILA – The National Task Force on Ending Local Armed Conflict (NTF-ELAC) may discuss with President Rodrigo R. Duterte calls for an extension of a ceasefire with the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, Malacañang said on Sunday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark after the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) extended the ceasefire up to 11:59 p.m. on April 30 due to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
The enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) over Luzon and other areas is also expected to lapse on the same date.
“On whether government would extend the unilateral ceasefire, this matter is something the National Task Force on Ending Local Armed Conflict can discuss with the President,” Roque said in a statement.
Roque recognized that peace is “everyone’s desire” and “has become more urgent in the present state of calamity and public health emergency.”
However, he also found it unfortunate that NPA rebels themselves violated their own declaration of truce in the form of violent armed encounters with government troops.
He recalled how NPA rebels forcibly seized relief goods intended for families affected by the crisis brought about by Covid-19 in the past few weeks.
Last March 29, reports showed that one soldier and another NPA rebel were killed during a firefight in Rodriguez, Rizal.
Reports also showed that NPA guerrillas purportedly snatched food packs from Guinmaayohan village officials in Balangiga, Eastern Samar last April 7.
It was also reported that the distribution of relief goods in Aroroy town in Masbate was disrupted on April 10 after NPA rebels allegedly attacked the government troops.
Roque appealed to the members of the communist movement to stop politicking and instead support the government in its fight against Covid-19.
On Monday, Duterte lamented that leftist groups stood in the way of the implementation of the national identification system which could have helped speed up the distribution of the government’s emergency subsidies.
Under the government’s Special Amelioration Program (SAP), cash aid ranging from PHP5,000 to PHP8,000 is being distributed to some 18 million low-income households.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the lead agency tasked to oversee the implementation of SAP, has been directed to verify the names of beneficiaries listed in the roster submitted by local government units.
Roque, however, bared that DSWD personnel are being prevented from validating the list of target beneficiaries in some NPA-infested areas.
“May ilang areas na kontrolado ng NPA, hindi pinapapasok yung mga taong gobyerno. Paano naman natin mabe-verify yung mga pangalan ng mga nakatira doon sa areas kung saan nandoon yung mga NPA (Government personnel are not allowed to enter areas being controlled by NPA. How can they verify the names of beneficiaries)?” he said.
Last March 25, the CPP accepted Duterte’s truce offer so law enforcement agencies could focus on curbing the rise in Covid-19 cases.
However, the NPA has drawn criticism from various sectors, including the Commission on Human Rights, for violating its own ceasefire declaration. (PNA)