Philippine troops put on alert after Christmas truce


MANILA, Philippines -- Government troops were placed on alert today to guard against potential strikes on the 19th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

As troops stood at the ready, military officials lauded the success of a 48-hour Christmas cease-fire.


There were no reports by late afternoon of violence by the New People's Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party, but soldiers remained on alert because of assaults on military detachments to mark the date in previous years.

'We are on red alert,' said Col. Renato Garcia, operations chief of the National Capital Region Defense Command.

Garcia said the troops were equipped with heavy arms and backed with tanks and helicopter gunships, but added that the deployments were merely precautionary measures.

'Everything is so quiet,' he said.

Armed forces spokesman Col. Oscar Florendo said the military was pleased with the success of a 48-hour Christmas cease-fire. 'The moratorium was very successful,' he said. 'I hope the cease-fire will go on forever.'

Only one violation was reported by late Saturday. Rebels reportedly entered a restaurant north of Manila and gunned down two soldiers as they ate their Christmas lunch. Three civilians were wounded in the incident, according to the report.


The cease-fire was only the second since a handful of peasant leaders, university students and professors met Dec. 26, 1968, to form the small Maoist organization that became the Communist Party of the Philippines.

The NPA was founded four months later to take up arms against the administration of then-president Ferdinand Marcos and has been fighting the government since that time. This year, the war claimed more than 10,000 lives.

The previous truce, which began Dec. 10, 1986 and lasted for 60 days through President Corazon Aquino's first Christmas in office, coincided with peace talks aimed at a permanent solution to the insurgency. But the cease-fire ended when talks broke down and guards killed 12 protesters outside the presidential palace.

The rebels resumed their struggle and, for the first time, unleashed their 'Sparrow' hit squads in the capital. The hit squads have been blamed for the murders of more than 100 lawmen.

The guerrillas also gunned down three Americans and a Filipino outside the U.S. Clark Air Base on Oct. 28, accusing Washington of 'blatant' intervention in the government's 'total war' against the 23,000 NPA fighters.

The latest truce was proclaimed independently and unilaterally by both sides following public feelers from the communists.


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