A task force will discuss with President Rodrigo Duterte the possibility of extending a ceasefire with communist rebels, to coincide with the extension of the enhanced community quarantine until the end of April, Malacañan Palace said on Sunday.

The government declared a truce on March 18 to allow soldiers to focus on the national emergency brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. The New People’s Army (NPA) followed suit.

Palace spokesman Harry Roque however accused the NPA of violating its own ceasefire.

“The call for peace is everyone’s desire and it has become more urgent in the present state of calamity and public health emergency,” he said in a statement.

“We find it, however, unfortunate that the members of the New People’s Army (NPA) themselves violated their own declaration of truce in the form of violent armed encounters with government troops,” he added.

Roque also cited the April 7 incident in Barangay Guinmayohan, Balangiga, Eastern Samar, in which NPA rebels allegedly confiscated half a sack of rice from residents.

READ: Balangiga officials deny reports of NPAs seizing relief goods

READ: Balangiga peace and order council condemns NPA for ‘confiscating’ relief goods

The alleged seizure of goods was earlier denied by town officials. The municipal peace and order council however issued a resolution a week later condemning the NPA, but said reports of a robbery might have been exaggerated.

“On whether government would extend the unilateral ceasefire, this matter is something the National Task Force on Ending Local Armed Conflict can discuss with the President,” Roque said.

‘Committed to uphold rights’

Roque also said the government would investigate case of human rights violations committed by local authorities during the quarantine, citing Quezon City.

“There are […] concerns on alleged human rights violations by LGUs against QC offenders who disobeyed the rules and health protocols.  As we are not fully aware of the details of such violations, we will appreciate receipts of detailed information of the same for proper action by the appropriate agencies,” he told the Foreign Correspondents’ Association of the Philippines.

Roque said local government units should enforce the law “as reasonably strict as possible for the full protection of our people.”  While such measures spell the difference between life and death, authorities must implement them “within the rule of law and respectful of human dignity and human rights of everyone.” (Melo M. Acuña, PressONE.ph)