Manila, Mar 29 (efe-epa).- The Philippine government on Sunday accused the Communist rebels of the New People’s Army (NPA) of violating the ceasefire announced by their leader on Tuesday following the United Nations’ call for a global halt to armed clashes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
A spokesperson of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration condemned NPA’s “attack on our soldiers while the latter were doing community work in Barangay Puray” in Rizal province in the central part of Luzon Island following the declaration of a unilateral ceasefire by both sides.
“This armed attack by the NPA against our soldiers exposes the insincerity of the former in declaring a ceasefire,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
One soldier was killed in the attack while another two were wounded, he added.
On Tuesday, Jose Maria Sison, the founder of the banned Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the NPA, announced that he had recommended a unilateral ceasefire to the guerrillas after the UN’s call for a global ceasefire during the coronavirus pandemic.
On Mar. 18, Duterte had declared a unilateral ceasefire with the communist rebels of the New People’s Army to allow the military to focus on the ongoing outbreak of the new coronavirus, but Sison rejected it the following day, saying it was intended “to intimidate the people, suppress democratic rights, commit human rights violations.”
On Sunday, the 51st anniversary of the guerrilla’s founding, the Communist Party announced that the NPA was mobilizing its forces, especially its medical units, for a health campaign to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Philippines has 1,075 confirmed coronavirus cases with 68 deaths, although it is believed that there may be thousands of undetected cases due to lack of resources.
Duterte came to power in 2016 with the promise of reviving the peace process with the left-wing rebels, but the dialog process broke down on three occasions, the latest a year ago when the president shut down negotiations and ordered the military to “annihilate the enemy.”
However, a negotiation window was reopened in December and since then a few exploratory encounters have taken place in the Netherlands with Sison and the Communist Party’s leaders.
The NEP, formed in 1969 to fight against the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, has around 3,900 regular fighters, although the number of its troops reached as high as 26,000 during the 1980s.
It has been involved in a deadly conflict for half a century that has resulted in around 43,000 deaths. EFE-EPA