The extension of martial law in Mindanao faced its first challenge after Congress approved it: an order to step up attacks against government forces nationwide.
In a statement hours after Congress approved President Rodrigo Duterte's request to extend military rule in the south for a full year until December 31, 2019, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) called on its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), to "mount tactical offensives across the country."
"All NPA units must exert all possible effort to punish the worst fascist units and officers of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) who have committed grave crimes against the people," the statement read.
It said one more year of Mindanao martial law "will result in more killings, abductions, torture and worse abuses against the people." The military and police have said reports of human rights abuses are just allegations but vowed to investigate these.
The CPP-NPA, which has waged a five-decade insurgency, was among lawless groups cited by Duterte in his request for a third martial law extension. He said more than 1,000 communist rebels have been "neutralized" under military rule, but urged Congress not to give them "any further breathing room to regroup and strengthen their forces."
CPP founding chairman Jose Maria Sison, in his Facebook post, reiterated that the extension is a prelude to declaring martial law nationwide, "which ensures Duterte control of the results of the elections if any and the cha-cha for fascist dictatorship under the guise of a bogus kind of federalism."
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorezana during Wednesday's joint session assured the public that the military will make sure midterm elections in 2019 will be "orderly, honest, and peaceful."
The CPP earlier declared a unilateral ceasefire in observance of the holiday season and its 50th anniversary. The truce will take effect 12:01 a.m. of December 24 to 11:59 p.m. of December 26. Another ceasefire is at 12:01 a.m. of December 31 to 11:59 p.m. of January 1, 2019.
Lorenzana has said he is not inclined to recommend doing the same. In the past, the government and the rebels accused each other of violating ceasefires, prompting Duterte to terminate peace talks in November 2017. The government's bid to tag the CPP-NPA as a terrorist group is still pending in court.
Source: CNN Philippines