The Philippine communist guerrilla, the New People's Army (NEP), has refused to reciprocate the unilateral ceasefire declared this week by President Rodrigo Duterte so that the Army can focus on the response to covid-19.
"The militaristic blockade throughout Luzon is not intended to combat the covid-19 pandemic but to intimidate people, repress democratic freedoms and commit human rights violations," said Jose Maria Sison, founder of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines and in a statement. from his armed arm, the NEP.
Sison, who has been self-exiled in the Netherlands for three decades, criticized the "strict quarantine" that the president declared on Monday throughout the island of Luzon - the largest in the country where Manila is located - and the increase in military controls.
According to the communist leader, the Armed Forces and the Police continue "kidnapping and murdering social activists and human rights defenders in urban areas and attacking the NEP guerrilla fronts."
The unilateral government ceasefire went into effect last midnight until April 15 for the Army to focus on responding to the covid-19 outbreak in the Philippines, where there are 202 confirmed cases and 17 deaths, although there are suspected to be many cases undetected due to lack of means.
Duterte came to power in 2016 with the promise of reviving the peace process with the communists, but the talks broke up on three occasions, the last one a year ago, when the president closed the path of negotiation and ordered the Army to "annihilate the enemy".
However, last December the door to dialogue reopened and since then some exploratory meetings have been held in the Netherlands with Sison and the top of the Communist Party.
"There is communication between the negotiating panels, but there is still no agreement for the reciprocal ceasefire," Sison clarified.
Last Friday, the NEP's top military chief, Julius Giron, died in a joint operation by the Army and the National Police, which was a severe blow to the organization and, according to several analysts, a further step towards ending the conflict.
The NEP, which was born in 1969 to combat the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship, has some 3,900 regular fighters - although it had 26,000 in the 1980s - waging a half-century conflict that has left 43,000 dead.