CPP declares unilateral ceasefire; orders release of two captives

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/20 August) — The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) declared Friday evening a seven-day unilateral ceasefire starting 12:01 a.m. on August 21 to “celebrate and bolster” the formal resumption of the peace negotiations with government (GPH) in Oslo, Norway on August 22 to 26.

In a statement posted on the cpp.ph website on Friday, the CPP said it declared the ceasefire following the release of almost all detained rebels who have been identified as consultants by the NDF in the Oslo talks and hopes the GPH would reciprocate as a show of all-out determination to move forward in the resumption of peace talks.

But with or without reciprocation by the government, the NPA “must maintain a high-level of alertness against enemy troop movements,” said the CPP. “Even while ready to engage in defensive action, the NPA will exert efforts to carry out early counter-maneuvers to avoid armed encounters during the specified ceasefire period,” it said.

The statement added that they are open to declaring a longer ceasefire upon the release of all political prisoners “so that everyone can participate in the peace talks,” citing the case of Ka Eduardo Sarmiento who was sentenced to life imprisonment in Muntinlupa after he was arrested in February 2009 and convicted in December 2013 with alleged trumped-up charges.

In a statement released Saturday morning, Presidential Communications Office (PCO) secretary Martin Andanar said President Rodrigo Duterte has walked an extra mile for peace and is glad that the CPP-NPA-NDF “showed a similar gesture of goodwill as a sign of sincerity to the peace process days prior to our talks in Oslo, Norway.”

He said government is optimistic that the mutual efforts of both parties would lead to fruitful negotiations that will result to substantive discussions to finally put an end to one of “Asia’s longest-running insurgencies.”

In his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 25, Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire effective immediately and expeted the CPP/NPA/NDF to reciprocate it.

No reciprocation was made the next day. Two days later, however, a Cafgu member was killed and four others were injured in Kapalong, Davao Del Norte on July 27.

On July 29, Duterte gave the CPP/NPA/NDF 24 hours or until 5 p.m. on July 30 to reciprocate the govenrment’s ceasefire or he will lift the ceasefire. He lifted the ceasefire at 7 p.m. on July 30, two hours after his deadline lapsed.

On August 7, Duterte warned the CPP/NPA/NDF he would call off the talks if they do not stop using landmines. Duterte issued the warning at the wake of four soldiers who were killed in  Compostela Valley province on August 5. The NPA owned up the ambush.

In its August 19 statement, the CPP expressed its deep appreciation to President Rodrigo Duterte who is determined to push forward and accelerate the negotiation between the GPH and the CPP/NPA/NDF (CPP/New Peoples Army / National Democratic Front) as “a means of address the roots of the civil war in the Philippines.”

The members of both panels will discuss, among others, social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, end of hostilities and disposition of forces, ceasefire, joint security and immunity and release of political detainees.

Also on Friday, Rubi del Mundo, spokesperson of the NDF-Southern Mindanao Region, announced the release of Chief Insp. Arnold S. Ongachen, chief of police of the Governor Generoso Police Station, and PO1 Michael B. Grande, of Banay-Banay Municipal Station, in Davao Oriental as a gesture of goodwill.

The NDFP-SMR assured an “orderly and safe turn-over” of the captives “pending a GPH undertaking of suspension of military and police offensives.”

It added that the NDF-SMR is expecting the release of the remaining 540 political prisoners imn compliance with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian law (CARHRIHL) and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.

“The success of the talks en route to a viable peace accord between the two governments in the Philippines rests in the main on GPH’s—especially the AFP, PNP and their paramilitaries’—adherence to previous agreements and the serious deliberation of the roots of the civil war,” it said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)