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Duterte lifts truce with Reds but open to talks

(Photo from Philippine Daily Inquirer)

 

MANILA ― Peeved by an attack by New People's Army (NPA) rebels on militiamen in which one was killed in Davao del Norte, President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the immediate lifting of the unilateral ceasefire against the communist rebels.

 

“I am ordering all security forces to be on high alert and continue to discharge their normal functions and mandate to neutralize all threats to national security, protect the citizenry, enforce the laws and maintain peace in the land,” the President said last week.

 

The Chief Executive later said this week he was open to talks with the communist groups even the government peace panel readied to fly again to Oslo to begin their talks with the the CPP-NPA-NDF peace panels. 

 

President Duterte declared unilateral ceasefire with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) during his first State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) last July 25 in line with achieving the government’s goal of final and lasting peace.

 

But the Chief Executive announced the lifting of the unilateral ceasefire that he ordered after the 5 p.m.Saturday ultimatum he gave lapsed without reciprocation from the communist rebels.

 

“Correspondingly, I am ordering the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to also withdraw the operational guidelines they issued in pursuance to that ceasefire declaration,” President Duterte said.

 

In Davao City, Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza announced the lifting of ceasefire declaration by President Duterte at 7 p.m Saturday.

 

Dureza said there is no supervening factor that will affect the resumption of the formal peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on August 20 in Oslo, Norway.

 

Duterte admitted on Monday that the road to peace is always a rocky road but still hoping his administration could talk again with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

 

”There is no negotiation that comes easy to us especially given the turmoil of our country. We are hoping that we could just talk, maybe we did not understand each other,” the President said during the mass oath-taking of his appointees in Malacanang.

 

”The best way is really is to talk again and find out whether it is reachable or beyond our reach,” President Duterte said.

 

”I hope that we can proceed with the talks the Communist Party of the Philippines and I’ll be spending about 10 days after tomorrow,” he added.

 

The President said he will also address the problem in Mindanao, particularly the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

 

President Duterte clarified that he will not talk with the bandit Abu Sayyaf Group.

 

”I will not deal with criminals. I will not deal with persons of extreme brutality. There is no redeeming factor or reason for me to sit down and talk with criminals. Pareho lang rin ýan sa droga. They’re out to just derail the life of a nation,” President Duterte said.

 

He said the Abu Sayyaf bandits have no ideology unlike the CPP-NPA-NDF and the MILF and MNLF.

 

The President said he give everybody a safe conduct pass once the peace talks start with the communist and the Moro rebels.

 

”My desire is just to see my nation at peace and for everybody in this generation before I make my exit that we will leave in peace and leave a country that is prosperous for the next generation,” he added.

 

President Duterte refused to react on the criticisms of communist leader Jose Maria Sison that the President was hasty to lift the ceasefire.

 

”Hindi ko papatulan iyan eh. I am not an ideological poltergeist. I am the President talking properly to you to have peace in this land. Bakit man ako --- hindi naman ako insecure,” the President said.

 

The President said his administration will pursue the peace talks with the communist rebels set on August 20 to 27 in Oslo, Norway.

 

”I cannot stop talking about peace. I am a President who is supposed to bring peace to his land. Whether it’s really Sison or not, whether I’d like to talk to Sison or not, it’s not important, it’s not relevant at all. The issue is, the left, not only Sison, but that includes Sison, the left, the entire leftist community or bloc dito sa atin. We cannot agree on all of these things. Merong right, left, center,” President said.

 

”Me, at this time, I just believe that I have to look for that peace for my land during my generation. If I fail, mahirap na, including Mindanao,” he added.

 

”Let’s wait and see. But so far, as the moment, there is no supervening factor that will affect the upcoming talks in Oslo on August 20,” Dureza said

 

The President also ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to also withdraw the operational guidelines they issued in pursuance to that ceasefire declaration.

 

The AFP said it remains duty bound to comply with any orders issued by the Chief Executive regarding this development.

 

"The AFP will abide by the ensuing orders of the Commander-in-Chief, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte following this development," AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said.

 

PNP Chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa  said the PNP will follow.

 

"The PNP will follow the instructions of Commander-in-Chief," Dela Rosa said

 

"I am ordering all security forces to be on high alert and continue to discharge their normal functions and mandate to neutralize all threats to national security, protect the citizenry, enforce the laws and maintain peace in the land," the President said.

 

The lifting came after the National Democratic Front (NDF) failed to reciprocate the ceasefire declaration of the President for the 5 p.m deadline.

 

Although at 6:30 p.m the NDF said it would reciprocate the unilateral ceasefire but had asked for time to finish its investigation on the attack of the Army's militiamen last Wednesday.

 

This was confirmed by GPH Peace panel chair Silvestre Bello Saturday evening as the 5 p.m deadline lapsed for the communist movement to reciprocate ceasefire.

 

"Please give us time to finish our investigation of the incident as reported by concerned NPA command," Bello quoted NDF spokesperson Fidel Agcaoili.

 

Bello said that in a conversation with Agcaoili, the CPP would reciprocate the President's ceasefire declaration.

 

Peace advocates in Central Luzon have expressed support to the order of President Duterte for the immediate lifting of his declaration of unilateral ceasefire against communist rebels.

 

Ernesto Angeles Alcanzare, lead organizer of Yes for Peace, said the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA )should have reciprocated the sincerity of President Duterte when he declared the imposition of a unilateral ceasefire between government forces and communist guerrillas.

 

"What is the NPA trying to prove? Are they telling us that they can attack government soldiers at will and get away with it? Or are they telling us that they reject President Duterte’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire?”

 

Alcanzare said that the recent attacks on government soldiers drew strong reactions from other sectors who are supporting the peace initiatives of President Duterte.

 

"Even their leaders wants peace. Everybody should do their share and work for the achievement of genuine and long lasting peace.We are all Filipinos, let’s all help end war in our country,” he said.

 

Alcanzare said that lawyer Domingo B. Alidon, president of the 20,000 strong Department of Education National Employees Union and long-time member of the Inter-Agency Technical Working Group of Yes for Peace has asked him: “Whose rights are the NPA really fighting for? The Filipino people’s rights or their right to bear arms against a duly elected government?”

 

Mama S. Lalanto, al Haj, adviser of Yes for Peace and a a member of the board of directors of the Philippine Postal Corporation, said that “based on emailed reports received from December 2015 to April 2016, 98.62% agreed that the internal armed conflicts between the government and all armed groups must stop; 98.22% believe that peace talks must be held here in the country; and 99.34% are willing to help in the implementation of all peace agreements.”

 

Duterte on Friday gave the CPP-NDF an ultimatum to also declare a truce after a rebel attack on militiamen on Wednesday, two days following the Chief Executive's pronouncement of a unilateral ceasefire.

 

He gave the ultimatum during his visit at the 60th Infantry Battalion headquarters in Barangay Doña Andrea, Asuncion to visit the wake of the militiaman slain in the ambush by NPA in Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte.

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