An hour before start of their Xmas truce, NPA rebels burn taxis in Panabo City
Suspected communist insurgents in Mindanao torched three taxis barely an hour before their Christmas truce took effect, police said Tuesday.
New People's Army (NPA) guerrillas burned the three cabs of Holiday Taxi company in the city of Panabo in Davao del Norte late Monday, about an hour before midnight when their truce started, said regional police spokesman Chief Inspector Jed Clamor.
"This was planned. They hired the three taxis in different areas, had them go to Panabo and then they pointed guns at the drivers and commandeered the taxis before burning them," he said.
Clamor said the 10 gunmen identified themselves to the drivers as members of the NPA.
Police suspect the incident was part of an extortion attempt against the taxi company.
The NPA, which is active in the hinterlands of the Philippine archipelago, has long resorted to extorting money from rural businesses to raise funds.
The Communist Party of the Philippines, which controls the 4,000-strong NPA, had earlier declared a 72-hour Christmas truce from December 24 until 11:59 p.m. of Dec. 26 as well as another 72-hour ceasefire from New Year's Eve until 11:59 p.m. of Jan. 2.
President Benigno Aquino III had declared his own unilateral truce with the NPA from December 21 to January 15.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the government peace negotiating panel called on the communists "to be faithful to the spirit and letter of the ceasefire that they have declared and to respect the prolonged ceasefire declared by our government."
The government has repeatedly called ceasefires with the communist rebels over the Christmas season, one of the most celebrated events in the Philippines.
Aquino had been aiming to end the leftist rebellion before he leaves office in 2016, but the government said in April that peace talks had collapsed.
The fighting has claimed 30,000 lives since 1969 according to the government tally. — Agence France-Presse