President Duterte has declared a ceasefire with the country’s Communist rebels effective March 19 to April 15, 2020. This is about the duration of the lockdown or quarantine the President declared for Metro Manila and the whole of Luzon and the state of calamity he declared for the entire country.
The government has been declaring a unilateral ceasefire every Christmas season, and the New People’s Army (NPA), Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) have always reciprocated with their own unilateral ceasefire. They cannot seem to agree on a common ceasefire.
The current situation in the Philippines – as in most of the rest of the world – calls for the fullest attention to the health crisis caused by COVID-19. The government has closed its offices, except for skeleton forces. It has asked private business to suspend all operations. It has closed all public transportation.
The goal is to stop the spread of the coronavirus which seeks to junp from person to person through droplets in the breath of an infected person. By minimizing close contacts as in crowds, health authorities hope to deprive the virus of a way to find new victims.
There may be no direct relationship between the virus poblem and the decades-long rebellion of the NPA-CPP-NDFP but President Duterte probably wants the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to concentrate on their new assignment of enforcing the restrictions of the lockdown.
But CPP Founding Chairman and NDF Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison said last Wednesday that the Communist movement is not reciprocating the government’s ceasefire, which it believes to be insincere. The lockdown, which is now being enforced by policemen and soldiers, is meant to suppress democratic rights, commit human rights violations, and is a mere psywar trick, he said.
The lockdown will continue as scheduled up to April 15 and could be extended if COVID-19 cases in the country continue to increase. Very likely, there will be no reciprocal ceasefire from the NPA-CPP-NDFP. There is just too much distrust in the government.
Still, the present COVID-19 health situation – now bordering on desperation in many countries – is one that calls for concerted efforts by all possible sectors of the country. Lockdowns or quarantines are being done all over the world.
The pandemic started in China which has succeeded in stopping it by locking down the entire Hubei province, whose capital Wuhan was where it all began. Some states in the United States have now ordered lockdowns.
The lockdown in Luzon and in some provinces in the South should help to stop the spread of COVID-19. The government believes a ceasefire will help in this time of need. We hope the NPA-CPP-NDFP will see that its own unilateral ceasefire will also be of help.