Surigao NPA declares ceasefire due to quake

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews /11 February) —  The communist guerilla front operating in Surigao del Norte and portions of Agusan del Norte has declared a unilateral ceasefire effective 6 a.m. Saturday (Feb. 11) “until the province will recover from the disaster” wrought by the magnitude 6.7 earthquake that struck the city at 10:03 p.m. Friday and left at least seven persons dead, over a hundred injured and several structures damaged.

Ka Oto, spokesperson of the Guerilla Front 16 of the New People’s Army (NPA) told MIndaNews in a telephone interview at around 7 p.m. that they ceased tactical offensives against government forces effective 6 p.m. Saturday “until the province will recover from the disaster.”

(Corrected: effective 6 p.m. not 6 a.m. as earlier reported) 

He said they will focus on humanitarian efforts to help the quake victims.

New People’s Army Guerrilla Front 16 spokesperson Ka Oto declares ceasefire in Surigao del Norte and three towns of Agusan del Norte to help assist quake victims. This photo was taken last December 26, 2016 somewhere in the hinterlands in Surigao del Norte.Photo by ROEL N. CATOTO

Guerilla Front 16 operates here and in the rest of Surigao del Norte, and  Agusan del Norte’s Kitcharao, Jabonga and Tubay towns.

“Rest assured we will not do any harm to the military as long as they will not come to our areas,” he said.

Ceasefire effectivity

The 6 p.m. effectivity of the ceasefire at 6 p.m. is 20 hours after the quake jolted the city and neighboring areas and 18 hours after the termination of the unilateral ceasefire the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA) they declared in August.

To recall, NPA spokesperson Jorge Madlos aka Ka Oris announced on February 1 that they were terminating the unilateral ceasefire they declared on August 28, by 11:59 p.m. of Friday, February 10. The quake struck an hour earlier.

NPA spokesman Ka Oris announces they will terminate the unilateral ceasefire they declared i n August, by 11:59 p.m. on February 10. Screengrab from the Philippine Revolution Web Central’s Facebook page

Madlos explained they were terminating their unilateral ceasefire because government had “not complied with its obligation to amnesty and release all political prisoners” and that it had “treacherously taken advantage of the unilateral declaration of interim ceasefire to encroach on the territory of the people’s democratic government,” claiming the AFP had occupied at least 500 villages nationwide “which are within the authority of the revolutionary government.”

Hours after Madlos’ announcement, three soldiers were killed in an ambush by the NPA in Malaybalay City and a junior officer was killed in Manay, Davao Orietnal.

In response, President Rodrigo Duterte on February 3 terminated “effective tonight” the unilateral ceasefire he declared last year; called off the peace talks on February 4,  and on February 5 called the CPP-NPA-NDF (National Democratic Front)  a “terrorist group” and NDF chief political consultant Jose Ma. Sison, his professor in Political Thought, a “terrorist.”

Ka Oto urged the military,  CAFGU and police strike force unit to go back to their barracks,” adding they will remain in “active defensive mode.”

“Naglikom pa kami og pondo para matabangan ang mga biktima sa linog diri sa Surigao” (We are still mobilizing resources so we can help the quake victims here), he said.

Come and help 

Fresh from their combat operations against communist rebels, troops under the 30th Infantry Battalion immediately shifted to humanitarian assistance and  disaster response operations in areas badly hit by the quake.

An hour after the quake struck, Lt. Col.  Rico Amaro, 30IB chief directed his troops to immediately respond and assist communities affected by the quake within his area of responsibility.

This is one of the bridges damaged by the earthquake that hit Surigao City and neighboring areas late Friday evening (10 February 2017). The bridge connects Surigao City to the municipality of San Francisco (formerly Anao-aon) in Surigao del Norte. Photo courtesy of 1Lt Ryan Layug / 30IB

Amaro assured Surigaonons they will provide  local government units all the necessary assistance in their rehabilitation efforts.

“As we conduct our humanitarian assistance and disaster response operation in the area, we remain vigilant against the terrorist NPAs that are still causing havoc in the entire region,” he said.

But Amaro said he is glad the NPA declared a ceasefire to. He urged them to come to the city, “mag-uniform at walang armas para sama-sama matulungan ang mga tao para sa victims of calamity” (in uniform, without firearms and together let us help the victims of calamity).  (Roel N. Catoto / MindaNews)