DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 31 July ) – President Rodrigo Duterte “patiently waited” for two more hours past his 5 p.m. deadline on Saturday for the National Democratic Front (NDF) to reciprocate government’s unilateral ceasefire but “knowing that an unanswered ceasefire declaration was not for the best interest of the nation,” lifted his ceasefire order, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said in a statement issued at 12:30 noon Sunday.
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in a statement issued mid-afternoon Sunday said it is “too bad” that Duterte called off the ceasefire but “we trust.. that this will not affect preparations for formal resumption of peace negotiations scheduled for August 20-27 in Oslo, Norway, nor will it preclude (Duterte) from reissuing such a declaration simultaneously with a similar unilateral declaration by the CPP and NPA (New Peoples Army) on August 20.”
It reiterated its “full support” for the resumption the peace negotiations and said it expects the Duterte administration to “make good its promise to release all peace consultants of NDFP as well as all political prisoners arrested and detained under the Arroyo and Aquino regimes.”
“To further support” peace negotiations, the CPP declared it is “willing to issue a unilateral ceasefire declaration separately but simultaneously with the Duterte government on August 20” and that the timeframe can be determined through negotiations.
It said the two panels can “thereafter exchange these declarations in order to discuss points for cooperation and coordination and determine ways of preventing armed skirmishes, misunderstandings and miscommunications during the course of the peace talks.”
An hour after the ceasefire order was lifted, Dureza told MindaNews: “Let’s wait and see. But so far, as of the moment, there is no supervening factor that will affect the upcoming talks in Oslo on August 20.”
In a 16-paragraph statement released Sunday noon, Dureza gave a chronology of events that led to Duterte’s lifting of his five-day unilateral ceasefire.
He noted the NPA ambush in Kapalong, Davao del Norte early Wednesday morning that killed one Cafgu meber and injured four others prompted Duterte to give the NDF until Thursday midnight to explain what happened.
On Thursday, July 29, Duterte visited the wake of the slain Cafgu member inside the camp of the 60th Infantry Battalion in Asuncion, Davao del Norte, “lamented the unnecessary loss of lives and publicly asked again the NDF to issue its own declaration of unilateral ceasefire to avoid similar incidents to happen,” Dureza said.
It was in the camp where Duterte gave the NDF 24 hours or up to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 30, to reciprocate the government’s ceasefire declaration or “he would lift the government’s ceasefire in order to further secure the civilians and secure the peace.”
Dureza narrated that when the deadline lapsed “and there was still no declaration from the NDF, the President still patiently waited” even as “disturbing messages from the ranks of the NPA were monitored.”
He cited the statement of the Southern Mindanao Regional Command which claimed that Duterte’s ceasefire was “non-existent” and blamed the AFP for allegedly “sabotaging” the ceasefire. “Its leadership also belittled the efforts of the President, saying that he could not dictate on the revolutionaries,” Dureza wrote.
“By 7 p.m, knowing that an unanswered ceasefire declaration was not for the best interest of the nation, the President then authorized the release of a statement declaring the lifting of the ceasefire,” he said.
Dureza released Duterte’s three-paragraph order at 7 p.m. two hours after the deadline lapsed.
Dureeza recounted that after the order was lifted, the CPP/NPA/NDF leadership “announced through the media its belated but still strategic and awaited decision to also declare its own unilateral ceasefire.”
“Indeed, this is a welcome development. It affirms the value of the President’s firm actions for peace. This is what we have been waiting for,” the peace adviser said.
According to Dureza, it is “very clear” based on the chronology of events, that the President “walked the extra mile for peace. And no doubt, he will still continue to do so at any given opportunity.”
Dureza said he will make his recommendations to the President during the Cabinet meeting on Monday.
President Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire with the communist rebels during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 25 “in order to stop violence on the ground, safeguard the citizenry and provide an enabling environment for the resumption of peace negotiation.”
Like previous declarations of unilateral ceasefire such as during Christmas, there was “high expectation” that the NDF would National “forthwith and immediately announce also its own as positive response to the President’s declaration,” Dureza recalled, adding this was the reason why Duterte in his SONA called on the NDF to respond accordingly.
He said the NDF was expected to also order a unilateral ceasefire on July 26, but they were told that “they could not do so as yet as they were waiting for the precise written orders on the ceasefire.”
Immediately, Dureza said, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police issued their “respective policy guidance in writing on how they would carry on with a ceasefire in place.”
He said copies were immediately sent to the NDF in Utrecht, the Netherlands on July 26 but “in spite of this, there was still no declaration from them.”
The next morning, July 27, the ambush happened.
The CPP’s statement explained that when Duterte declared the ceasefire, “the CPP and NPA immediately reciprocated with an order for all units of the NPA to go on active defense mode, a state just one notch below a ceasefire, as it awaited the CPP Central Committee to evaluate the situation and issue appropriate orders.”
The CPP described as “quite capricious” and “quite disconcerting” that Duterte was issuing ultimatums to the CPP. “Despite his anti-crime bravado, it would seem he has shown the drug lords and protectors of criminal syndicates more flexibility and accommodation,” it said.
The statement advised Duterte to “exercise a little more prudence and display more measured temperament as a way of appreciating the situation from a broader historical perspective in order to avoid such impulsive acts as imposing ultimatums by the hour on a conflict that has spanned nearly fifty years.”
It said that while the five-day unilateral ceasefire was in effect, “there was zero compliance on the part of the AFP,” that its “public expression of support for the ceasefire declaration was not reflected on the ground;” and that “not a single AFP command ordered its troops withdrawn back to their barracks.”
It also added that “not one AFP encampment in civilian communities was taken down,” that soldiers “stationed in and around the scores of Lumad sitios did not move an inch” and that “thousands of Lumad people remain in evacuation centers unable to safely return home.”
It claimed that “continuing offensives” of the military “prevented the CPP declaring an interim ceasefire sooner.”
The CPP warned it “will not allow itself to be browbeaten to order the NPA to go on a ceasefire while operating troops of the AFP showed no plans on letting up in their search-and-destroy operations and frenzied offensives that terrorize civilian communities.”
In the Asuncion military camp on Friday, Duterte said: “I was expecting that they would also reciprocate my implorings for peace with a ceasefire on their side. At least yun ang sagot sana nila” (that should have been their response).
He wondered “if they are really in it for peace or jina-jamming nila ako. So I’d like to issue this statement. Hindi ko kayo tinatakot (I am not scaring you). Pag ayaw ninyo, okay sa akin (If you don’t like, that’s okay with me). We fight for another generation, okay sa akin.”
“Gusto kong magmura (I want to curse). I’ve dealt with you in good faith. You tell me if you are not ready to deal in the same manner,” Duterte warned.
“God, ilan na namamatay sa Pilipino? Sinong pumatay? Pilipino rin. Ang problema sa inyo (God, how many Filipinos have been killed? Who killed them? Filipinos, too. The problem with you is you carry the element of hate. Diskumpyado kayo (You do not trust) You tell me that I will order the police and military out of the mountains. That is out of the question,” Duterte said.
“I cannot withdraw any soldier or policeman dito sa bukid,” he added.
He called on the NDF to “deal with us, deal with me in government in good faith. Wala tayong bolahan (Let’s not fool each other) Because I have shown already many years ago my sincerity to you. And I have been selling this idea to you: we need to stop fighting,” the President said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/ MindaNews)