DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/25 August) – President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to give guerrillas of the New People’s Army (NPA) “money and lands” when the peace negotiations between the government (GPH) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) succeeds.
In a press conference he called for at 11:35 p.m. Wednesday outside a seafood restaurant where he had a late dinner with soldiers bound for Sulu, Duterte said he would be ready to release other political prisoners “if the successful talks are there for me to see and to hear (but) in the meantime, no.”
The GPH and NDF peace panels are in Oslo, Norway for the first round of formal peace negotiations scheduled August 22 to 26. The next round of talks will be announced Friday morning in Oslo.
He said he is “ready to give more” to the CPP such as positions in the banking and financing institutions.
“I can accommodate all of them and yun namang mga NPA soldiers, I will release money and lands for them, yung totohanan na (genuine) land reform but I will not confiscate lands which are owned tapos gi-land reform at ipinabili uli ng tenant tapos kunin ko uli doon sa owner. I will not do that. That will be an injustice. But here’s so much lands in the Philippines. Sabihin lang nila (Let them say so) and I will give them everything,” Duterte added.
Duterte called for the press conference at 11:35 p.m. Wednesday to declare a ceasefire in response to the NDF’s unilateral seven-day ceasefire declared on August 19. The NDF’s ceasefire was to begin at 12:01 a.m. on August 21 and end at 11:59 p.m. on August 27.
“Effective this hour, it’s 11:35 (p.m.) as of today (August 24), I am declaring a ceasefire so I am joining the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in its desire to seek peace… in the same manner I am ordering the Armed Forces of the Philippines (and the) Philippine National Police as of today, meron tayong ceasefire, so we avoid hostile actions against each other, we do not go into antagonistic behavior in front of whoever.”
He said the duration of the ceasefire would depend on what is agreed upon in Oslo. “I really do not know. The success and failure will depend on the people talking there.”
Ceasefire declared four days earlier
Duterte’s near midnight declaration, however, came four days after Presidential Adviser on the Peae Process Jesus Dureza, in a statement before departing for Oslo, announced that the President had “restored the effects of the unilateral ceasefire with the CPP /NPA/NDF (Communist Party of the Philippine/New Peoples Army/NDF) effective 12 midnight tonight, 21 August, 2016.
Dureza had met with the nocturnal President at around 3 a.m. that day at the Matina Enclaves here “for last minute instructions.” Dureza said the government’s unilateral ceasefire “will last for as long as necessary to bring peace in the land and also in order to provide an enabling environment for the success of the peace negotiations that will start in Oslo, Norway on August 22,”
But while the unilateral ceasefire of both parties had supposedly started effective midnight on August 21, President Rodrigo Duterte said in a two-hour press in the early hours Sunday, August 21, that he still had to consult the Defense Secretary and the commanding generals of the military and police.
“As to … when I will declare the ceasefire, I will have to consult the Defense Secretary and the commanding generals of the Navy, Army, even the Police, Air Force. I would tell them: Are you safe? Or would it be safe for our country now to declare ceasefire vis-à-vis with the government or with the Communist Party of the Philippines because if I feel that it’s not, then it’s not high time really to do it,” Duterte said.
Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 25 but lifted it on July 30 when the NDF did not reciprocate the ceasefire as he expected, and a Cafgu paramilitary personnel was killed and four others were injured in an ambush in Kapalong, Davao del Norte on July 27.
On August 7, Duterte warned the NPA he would call off the talks if it continues to use land mines. The warning was issued at the wake of four soldiers killed in an ambush by the NPA in Compostela Valley on August 5.
“I was the first to show good faith and I was reciprocated by a lot of ambuscades by the Left….,” Duterte said early Sunday.
Reminded that Dureza had announced that he had restored the ceasefire midnight of August 21, Duterte replied, “I already ordered it (restoring the ceasefire) but I have to consult them just to make sure that my orders are followed.”
He urged people in government, the military and police “to be friendly with the forces of the revolutionary government of the CPP” during the ceasefire and hopes this would “go on a long, long period, for the peaceful resolution of the communist rebellion against the republic of the Philippines.”
He stressed that as President, “my task is to seek the peace for my country.”
“I am not a President who would enjoy waging war against the citizens of this republic. It pains me deeply to see people dying for an ideology” when this can be discussed peacefully as the two parties are talking in Oslo now.
“Why do we have to kill each other for 45 years only to end up talking, which is really a significant event for everybody,” Duterte said in mixed English and Filipino.
“And to think so many lives are lost on the government and the other side… That is my regret for my nation,” he lamented. “We cannot be at war at all times.”
As commander in chief, he said, “I would not like anybody there dying or dead.”
If the other side violates the ceasefire, Duterte said, “that’s their problem.”
“My problem is nobody violates my order and it behooves upon the CPP to do the same otherwise walang mangyayari dito,” he said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas /MindaNews)