Interior Secretary Eduardo Año has ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) to comply with a unilateral ceasefire between the national government and the communist movement and focus all efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease-2019 (Covid-19).
This came after President Rodrigo Roa Duterte directed the declaration of a unilateral ceasefire against the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).
“The PNP must direct all its efforts in ensuring peace and order amid the coronavirus crisis, including the task of securing entry and exit points, ensuring that people abide by the quarantine and social distancing measures; and assisting local government units in their anti-COVID-19 programs, among others,” Año said in a statement sent to reporters late Wednesday.
The ceasefire took effect on Thursday and will be implemented nationwide until April 15 at this time of public health emergency.
During the unilateral ceasefire period, the PNP shall strictly implement the Enhanced Community Quarantine in Luzon and the prohibition of mass gatherings and other anti-Covid-19 measures in other parts of the country and are to maintain a defensive stance in all of its counter-terrorism undertakings.
Active defense operations shall only be undertaken in the face of clear and imminent danger and actual armed attack by hostile forces, he said.
Meanwhile, PNP chief, Gen. Archie Gamboa, said he will abide by and support the decision of the President.
He said the PNP in full support to the declaration of a unilateral ceasefire as all national, regional, provincial and district police maneuver units engaged in internal security operations have been placed on defensive posture and have shifted operations to disaster response and public safety mode to enforce the enhanced Luzon-wide community quarantine to contain the spread of Covid-19 upon the government’s declaration of a national state of calamity.
“This cessation of police offensive operations against the CPP-NPA will allow PNP maneuver units to be fully utilized for quarantine control and general public safety operations to ensure swift and immediate assistance to patients and persons under investigation and monitoring (PUI/PUM), including military and police personnel; and the unimpeded movement of health workers, medical supplies, and other humanitarian assistance; including the movement of medical and food products; and consumer goods to the local market,” Gamboa said
He said the Directorate for Operations has cascaded the instructions to all PNP Units nationwide particularly in the Luzon regions for strict implementation and the PNP Command Center will monitor compliance of all PNP units to this directive.
With a ceasefire notwithstanding, he said the PNP Units are instructed to maintain defensive vigilance against possible hostile actions by armed threat groups to which appropriate police response is authorized under the Police Operational Procedures.
“We remain hopeful that the CPP-NPA-NDF will reciprocate the government’s gesture of good faith in the interest of public welfare and peace,” he stressed.
Duterte placed the island of Luzon under quarantine until April 14 to contain the spread of Covid-19.
People residing in Luzon are mandated to observe strict home quarantine and limit their movement during the month-long quarantine period.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Department of Health (DOH) reported 15 new cases of Covid-19 in the country, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 202.
CPP-NPA-NDF founding chair Jose Maria Sison on Tuesday said he will consider Duterte’s ceasefire proposal amid the government’s efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19.
The CPP-NPA has been listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)