NPA declares unilateral ceasefire, three days after Duterte's call for a truce

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 22) — Communist rebels will not attack government forces over the holidays, the New People's Army (NPA) declared Friday.

The NPA "hereby unilaterally declares to all commands and units of the NPA and the people's militia a ceasefire in observance of the Filipino people's traditional holidays and the Party's 49th anniversary," NPA Spokesperson Ka Oris said in a statement.

The order was made by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) to its armed wing. Its anniversary is on December 26.

The ceasefire declaration by the NPA comes three days after President Rodrigo Duterte on December 19 announced a unilateral ceasefire.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque revealed the President's directive on December 20, followed by the Defense Department the next day.

Read more: Duterte declares unilateral holiday ceasefire with communist rebels

The rebels' ceasefire takes effect from 6 p.m. on December 23 to 6 p.m. on December 26, and the same hours on December 30 to January 2, 2018.

The government's ceasefire falls on the same days, but for six hours longer on December 26 and January 2, 2018 until 11:59 pm.

The NPA said under its ceasefire declaration, "NPA units and people's militias shall cease and desist from carrying out offensive military campaigns and operations against the uniformed armed personnel" of the Armed Forces and its paramilitaries, the police, and the government.

The rebels will also refrain from arresting police and military who "have no serious liabilities other than their membership in their armed units."

However the NPA said its members will remain on "active defense mode," saying they should stay alert for possible attacks by government forces despite their own truce. It said the communist movement is "aware of the AFP's treachery, attacks and deception."

Several times in the past, the government and communists accused each other of violating their own ceasefire declarations.

The Defense Department on Friday also reminded security forces to remain vigilant despite the suspension of operations.

Sison distrusts gov't truce

The communist movement declared a ceasefire even as its founder believes the government's truce could be a trick.

"Malamang na pakunwari ang SOMO (The suspension of military operations or SOMO is most likely a pretense)," said CPP founder Jose Maria Sison. He is also the chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), which represents rebels in talks to end the communist movement's 48-year-old armed insurgency, the longest-running in Asia.

Also read: Joma Sison: Gov't ceasefire most likely a trick

The government's timing was also questionable, NDFP legal consultant Edre Olalia said.

Its ceasefire "comes on the heels of the rebel movement's standing openness to declare its own," he said. 

"The government has apparently stolen the thunder to make it appear that the latter is magnanimous despite incessant vicious and outrageous words against the former," he added.

Malacañang on Thursday said the President has "no expectations" from the NPA on his declaration of a unilateral ceasefire.

The truce declared by both sides comes weeks after Duterte severed ties with the NPA, which he declared a terrorist organization. The NPA's designation as a terrorist organization will be official once approved by a regional trial court, according to the Human Security Act of 2007.

Duterte canceled all peace talks with communists on November 23, citing a rash of violent attacks by the NPA. The National Democratic Front of the Philippines

The government and rebels usually declare ceasefires during the holiday break. But it earlier seemed unlikely this year after the cancellation of peace talks and the NPA's impending terrorist tag.