DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/28 August) – The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the National Operational Command of the New People’s Army (NPA) issued on Sunday an indefinite unilateral ceasefire order after the lapse of its seven-day unilateral ceasefire at 11:59 p.m. Saturday.
The ceasefire order is in response to the Duterte administration’s indefinite unilateral ceasefire, as well as boost effort to accelerate the peace process between the Philippine government (GPH) and the National Democratic Front (NDF)
According to the five-page Joint Statement on the Resumption of the Formal Peace Talks in the Peace Negotiations signed by the GPH and the NDF peace panels in Oslo, Norway on Friday, the NDF and the CPP would issue an “indefinite unilateral ceasefire order” to the NPA and the people’s militia at the end of its seven-day unilateral ceasefire.
The week-long ceasefire was declared on August 19 and took effect from 12:01 a.m. August 21 to 11:59 p.m. on August 27.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire a month earlier, during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 25 but lifted it on July 30 after the NDF failed to reciprocate and a Cafgu was killed and three others were injured in Kapalong, Davao del Norte on July 27.
Before departing for Oslo on August 20, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza announced that President Rodrigo Duterte “has restored the effects of the (July 25) unilateral ceasefire with the CPP /NPA/NDF effective 12 midnight tonight, 21 August, 2016.”
Dureza said the unilateral ceasefire will last “for as long as necessary to bring peace in the land” and also to provide an enabling environment for the success of the August 22 to 26 peace talks in Oslo.
The CPP/NPA’s “unilateral declaration of interim ceasefire” takes effect on August 28 and will remain valid during the peace negotiations “until superseded by a ceasefire agreement to be issued jointly” by the GPH and NDF within the next 60 days or “until a notice of termination of this ceasefire declaration takes effect 10 days after receipt of said notice” by the GPH panel from the NDF panel
The August 26 Joint Statement tasked the ceasefire committees of the GPH and NDF peace panels to “reconcile and develop their separate unilateral ceasefire orders into a single unified bilateral agreement within 60 days” from August 26.
The prospective bilateral ceasefire will be the second since 1986. The 60-day ceasefire that starte don December 10, 1986 was not renewed in February 1987.
The CPP/NPA’s August 28 Declaration said they are “encouraged by the positive outcome” of the first round of talks in Oslo and look forward to “vibrant talks” in the next months on the social and economic reforms (SER), political and constitutional reforms (PCR), and end of hostilities and disposition of forces (EHDF).
The ceasefire declaration, it said, is further encouraged by the prospective release of all political prisoners and remaining detained consultants of the NDF through the issuance of an Amnesty Proclamation.
The parties had earlier agreed that the Amnesty Proclamation is subject to the concurrence of Congress.
Cease and Desist
During the ceasefire, all NPA units and people’s militia have been ordered to “cease and desist from carrying out offensive military campaigns and operations against the uniformed armed personnel” of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).
The Declaration also said that AFP and PNP personnel “who have no serious liabilities other than their membership in their armed units” shall not be subjected to arrest or punitive actions and may be allowed individually to enter the NPA-held areas for personal visits to relatives and friends.
All units of the NPA and the people’s militias are tasked to be “on defensive mode at both the strategic and tactical levels” but at the same time “maintain a high degree of militancy and vigilance against any hostile actions, provocations or movements of the enemy armed forces including encroachment on the territory of the people’s democratic government, surveillance and other offensive operations that are labeled as ‘peace and development,’ ‘civil-military,’ ‘peace and order,’ ‘anti drugs campaign,’ ‘medical missions’ or ‘law enforcement.’”
It added that active-defense actions shall be undertaken only “in the face of clear and imminent danger and actual armed attack by the enemy forces” and only after exhausting counter-maneuvers to avoid armed encounters.
The Declaration tasked leading organs and branches of the CPP, commands and units of the NPA and people’s militias and revolutionary mass organizations to “monitor any hostile actions, provocations or movements carried out by the enemy armed forces that undermine the spirit of the ceasefire declarations” and urged them to report immediately to the NPA and CPP.
But the Declaration also noted that while the cease and desist order stands, the NPA “will continue to enforce policies and laws of the people’s democratic government, perform appropriate functions of governance, and mobilize the people and resources in territories under its authority;” maintain peace and order “including suppression of criminal groups such as drug traffickers and operators of the drug trade and large-scale gambling, private armies and private armed groups of warlords, local tyrants and vigilante groups, as well as spies;” enforce local economic policies pertaining to land rent, usurious loans, wages and others; and enforce policies for the protection of the environment and defense of the interests of national minorities, peasants and workers affected by large-scale mining, logging and plantation operations.
It also said the NPA will continue to deploy its forces “to carry out educational campaigns especially on progress of peace negotiations, cultural activities, medical missions and production support campaigns.”
The second round of formal peace talks is on October 8 to 12 also in Oslo. But the reciprocal working committees and working groups on SER, PCR and EHDF have agreed on a timeline to accomplish their tasks and have set meetings before the next round of talks .
The two panels are eyeing a year within which to craft a comprehensive peace agreement. (Carolyn O. Arguillas /MindaNews)