Army Chief Lt Gen Emmanuel Bautista delivers his message to the personnel of the 4th Infantry Division in Cagayan de Oro City on December 10, 2012 (Photo by Major Harold M Cabunoc)
FORT BONIFACIO, Taguig City – In compliance to the Operational Directive “Payapang Pasko” declaring the Suspension of Military Operations (SOMO), Army field units implement the ceasefire during the Yuletide season.
Major Harold Cabunoc, Army Spokesperson, said that commanders of field units have directed its troops to postpone all deliberate offensive operations against the New People’s Army (NPA,) in observance of the Yuletide Season unilateral ceasefire that was declared by His Excellency President Benigno S Aquino, III.
The SOMO starts on December 16, 2012 to January 03, 2013 for a period of 19 days.
During the field visit of Army Chief Lt Gen Emmanuel T Bautista to various field units of the Army, he was briefed that the soldiers were properly advised of the implementation of the SOMO.
Cabunoc said that the Army will follow the directives handed down from higher headquarters.
“The Army remains firm in its commitment as instrument of national policy and to its mandate as protector of the people and the State. We will obey the order coming from our Commander-in-Chief ,” he said.
He also said that the implementation of the Yuletide SOMO is the way to demonstrate the AFP’s commitment, sincerity and resolve for peace in spite of conflict with the insurgent group.
“I hope the NPA will realize that this is a golden opportunity for everyone not only for the Army soldiers but also their armed members, to celebrate Christmas in peace and harmony with their families,” Cabunoc said.
Disaster response operations continue
According to the policy guidelines, the SOMO will only cover deliberate offensive operations against the armed communist rebels.
It does not prohibit military actions movements or activities aimed to support the people, civil authorities, the government and other agencies in their mandates for peace, development and humanitarian assistance programs.
"The soldiers will continuously conduct security patrols within the protective radius to protect civilian communities, government establishments, investment facilities and vital structures, military camps, detachments, patrol bases, installations and outposts against the threat of force or the actual use of force by the armed groups," said Cabunoc, citing the provisions of the policy guidelines of the SOMO.
Also, in coordination with the Philippine National Police, the Army is allowed to apprehend any person carrying illegal firearms and explosives.
Despite the ceasefire, the peace and development activities like the ongoing the Disaster Response and Relief Operations and rehabilitation operations in typhoon-stricken areas continue unhampered.
Cabunoc furthered that the soldiers will continuously support the on-going retrieval operations of the bodies buried in the landslide during typhoon Pablo.
He also said that the soldiers will also assist in the delivery of critically-needed relief goods, even carrying them on foot.
He added that some soldiers from other units which are not affected by the typhoon were deployed to help the ongoing humanitarian assistance missions in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.
“Our main advocacy is Bayanihan so we have deployed soldiers from various units including the 9th Infantry Division in Bicol. The 901st Brigade led by Col Ricardo Visaya had sent its DRO platoon to Compostela Valley equipped with rescue/retrieval equipment and water treatment facilities,” Cabunoc said.
A Humvee ambulance from the Army's 1001st Brigade patrols the streets of New Bataan, Compostela Valley to help in the ongoing humanitarian assistance mission there. The military ambulance is manned by Army doctors, nurses and combat medics. The deployment of personnel for non-combat missions is allowed during the SOMO. (Photo by 'Dire Straits')