COMMUNIST UNDERGROUND LEADER Jose Maria Sison chided what he called President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s flip-flopping on the matter of observing a truce with communist rebels.

Mr. Duterte had declared a unilateral cease-fire, despite having issued two proclamations classifying the rebels as terrorists and canceling peace negotiations.

“Those who will dance to Duterte’s flip-flop would only be fooled,” Mr. Sison said in an interview with Kodao Productions on Wednesday, Dec. 20.

Nevertheless, he also said: “If the AFP and the PNP will not attack, they will not be ambushed by the NPA (New People’s Army).”

“The NPA must therefore be alert against treachery, attacks and occupation of communities by the enemies,” Mr. Sison added.

The government’s unilateral cease-fire takes effect 6 p.m. of Dec. 23 to 6 p.m. of Dec. 26, and 6 p.m. of Dec. 30 to 6 p.m. of Jan. 2, 2018.

In response, Presidential Spokesperson Herminio Harry L. Roque, Jr. said: “We should be thankful that the President is pushing through with the unilateral cease-fire altogether, (because he) could have ignored it completely and not declared anything.”

“I felt that it was a right decision because, finally, I personally felt it’s Christmas with the announcement. If Joma Sison did not feel any spirit of Christmas because of the (suspension of military operations), well, I feel sorry for him. That’s what happens when you’re not here in the Philippines anyway,” Mr. Roque also said of the exiled communist leader.

For his part, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus G. Dureza said in a statement on Thursday that Mr. Duterte’s unilateral declaration “is a bold step. It is a clear indication of his unwavering desire to bring sustainable and durable peace in the land despite the cancellation of peace negotiations with the CPP/NPA/NDF.”

In its statement, the Department of National Defense said: “We urge those who are waging war against our sovereign government and inflicting harm on the Filipino people to spend this period in reflection and seriously reconsider returning to the fold of law.”

Also on Thursday, House Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez in a statement noted that the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives “has not accessed funds from Congress at all.”

Mr. Alvarez said in his statement: “In the first place, the so-called Makabayan bloc consisting of party-list groups identified with the mainstream Left has not accessed funds from Congress at all. We do not know where they get funds for projects for their constituents. All we know is that the communist rebels with whom they have an ideological and political affinity impose what’s known as ‘revolutionary taxation’ in areas where they operate.”

He added: “According to the military, in southern Mindanao alone, the NPA collects close to P500 million yearly in revolutionary taxes. This is plain and simple extortion. We have not heard from the Makabayan bloc a clear and unequivocal condemnation of revolutionary taxation, leading us to suspect that they either directly or indirectly benefit from it.”

The Makabayan bloc in response said: “We in the Makabayan bloc, detest the malicious and dangerous red-tagging by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. It is clear that the House leadership just wants to divert attention from the now awakened issue of thriving pork barrel in Congress.”

“Speaker Alvarez should just stick to the issue of pork barrel at hand and not try to use a smokescreen or flagrantly justify the continued proliferation of patronage politics.” — reports by Arjay L. Balinbin and Minde Nyl R. dela Cruz