MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/25 July) — President Rodrigo Duterte has declared a unilateral ceasefire with the communist-led New People’s Army.
“We’re willing to go to the negotiating table,” Duterte said, adding it is ironic and tragic that while soldiers and rebels are being extolled, “what I see instead are the widows and orphans”.
“I reach out to you, let us end this warfare and decades of ambuscades…We’re going nowhere, it’s getting bloodier by the day.
“To immediately stop violence on the ground, restore peace in the communities and provide an enabling environment conducive to the resumption of peace negotiations, I am announcing a unilateral ceasefire with the CPP/NPA/NDF effective immediately,” he said in his first State of the Nation Address on Monday.
“If we can;t love each other, let’s not hate each other too much,” he said.
In a statement issued after Duterte’s SONA, the NDF said its spokesperson Luis Jalandoni has welcomed Duterte’s pronouncement for a unilateral ceasefire and is expected “to respond to or reciprocate the unilateral ceasefire declaration of the GRP soon after receiving its full text.”
“Luis Jalandoni, chairperson of the Negotiating Panel fo the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), wrote today to Secretary Silvestre Bello III, chairman of the Negotiation Panel of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, welcoming President Duterte’s announcement in his SONA that he is ordering the unilateral ceasefire of the AFP and PNP in relation to the NPA,” the statement said.
It said that the NDFP “shared with President Duterte the determination to work for a just and lasting peace.”
In a text message to media, Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate said Duterte’s pronouncement of ceasefire is most welcome but said the release of political prisoners would build confidence among the national democrats to start the formal peace negotiations.
“His declaration of a unilateral ceasefire with the CPP-NPA-NDF is most welcome and the subsequent release of political prisoners would be a great confidence building measure to jumpstart the formal peace negotiations to finally address the root causes of the armed conflict,” he said.
The Philippine government and NDF will resume peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway from Aug 20 to 27.
In June, then President-elect Duterte sent Jesus Dureza and Bello III to hold preliminary talks with NDF officials in the Netherlands.
Dureza now serves as Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process while Bello sits as Labor secretary.
Peace negotiations with the NDF started in 1986 under the Cory Aquino administration resulting in a bilateral ceasefire that was cut short by the Mendiola Massacre in January 1987.
Talks resumed under former president Fidel V. Ramos. No ceasefire was forged but the two parties signed the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.
Negotiations were stalled under the Estrada, Arroyo and Aquino III administrations. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews with a report from Antonio L. Colina IV)