Manila, March 19 (IANS) The Philippines’ New People’s Army (NPA) rebels on Thursday rejected a unilateral ceasefire, which President Rodrigo Duterte had declared this week to allow the military to focus on the coronavirus pandemic.
“The militarist lockdown on the whole of Luzon is meant not to fight the COVID-19 pandemic but to intimidate the people, suppress democratic rights, commit human rights violations,” Jose Maria Sison, the founder of the banned Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the NPA, said in a statement.
Sison, who has been living in exile in the Netherlands for three decades, criticized the “strict quarantine” Duterte imposed on Monday across Luzon, the country’s main island and home to the capital, Manila, and the increase in military controls, reports Efe news.
According to the communist leader, the armed forces and the police “continue to redtag, abduct and murder social activists, including human rights defenders, in urban areas and to unleash attacks against the people in the guerrilla fronts of the New People’s Army”.
The unilateral ceasefire by the government came into effect at midnight on Thursday and will last until April 15 to allow the military to help in responding to the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.
There are 202 confirmed cases in the Philippines and 17 deaths, although there were concerns that the country might have hundreds of undetected patients due to lack of resources.