MANILA -- Malacañang on Thursday clarified that the unilateral ceasefire declared by President Rodrigo Duterte with communist rebels will not run continuously from Dec. 24 to Jan. 2 as earlier announced.

Instead, the unilateral truce will be from Dec. 23, 6 p.m. until Dec. 26, 11:59 p.m and from Dec. 30, 6 p.m. to Jan. 2, 11:59 p.m.

The clarification was announced by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. during the regular Palace press briefing.

Roque earlier said that Duterte has declared a suspension of military operations (SOMO) against the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) from Dec. 24 to Jan. 2.

He said the President decided to declare a ceasefire to reduce public apprehension during the Christmas season.

When asked what led to the change of decision, Roque said, “It is always the President’s prerogative to change his decision."

”That is part of Executive power. The President doesn’t have to explain,” Roque said.

In the meantime, the Palace official slammed CPP founder Jose Maria Sison for calling Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire declaration as “probably a sham” to deceive the NPA.

“If Joma Sison did not feel any spirit of Christmas because of the SOMO, well, I feel sorry for him. That’s what happens when you’re not here in the Philippines anyway,” Roque said.

“We should be thankful that the President is pushing through with the unilateral ceasefire altogether. He could have ignored it completely and not declared anything,” he added.

Earlier, Duterte said he was not keen on declaring a Christmas truce with the communist rebels following continued attacks against state security forces.

However, the President said early Wednesday that if ever he declares a holiday truce, it would be out of consideration for the well-being of the Filipino people.

"Look, if I declare a ceasefire, it is not addressed to the NPAs. Rather, I would want to celebrate Christmas with the rest of humankind or Filipinos na walang stress," he said in a media interview at the wake of Police Officer 3 Wilfredo Gueta.

"Baka sabihin nila walang ceasefire ngayon, baka magkaputukan then you put a lot of strain on the people. I will think about it. That would be my primary consideration," Duterte said.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) called the President’s decision to declare a unilateral ceasefire “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,” OPAPP Secretary Jesus Dureza said in a statement.

Duterte’s peace adviser likewise echoed Malacañang’s expectations “that the CPP-NPA-NDFP would do a similar gesture of goodwill.”

“Although arrived at unilaterally upon the President's sole determination, it is my personal expectation – and the public as well, I'm sure – that the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed organs will extend reciprocity to President Duterte's gesture for peace,” Dureza said.

The Department of National Defense (DND) also issued a similar statement.

“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,” the statement read. (PNA)