DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 01 August) – The road to peace is “always rocky” and even if his declaration of unilateral ceasefire was not reciprocated, peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front (NDF) will continue, President Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday at the mass oath-taking of undersecretaries at the Rizal Hall in Malacanang.
“There is no negotiation that comes easy to us especially given the turmoil of our country. We are hoping that we could just talk, maybe we did not understand each other. And so, the best way is really, is to talk again and find out whether (peace) is reachable or beyond our reach,” he told the appointees.
At 7 p.m. on July 30, Duterte lifted his July 25 order for a unilateral ceasefire when the NDF did not reciprocate it by 5 p.m.
Duterte gave the NDF 24 hours or up to 5 p.m. on July 30 to also declare its unilateral ceasefire following the ambush by the New Peoples Army (NPA) on July 27 that killed a Cafgu member and injured four others in Kapalong, Davao del Norte.
In his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 25, Duterte specifically addressed the CPP/NPA/NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front): “ let us end these decades of ambuscades and skirmishes. We are going nowhere. And it is getting bloodier by the day.”
He declared a unilateral ceasefire “to immediately stop violence on the ground, restore peace in the communities and provide enabling environment conducive to the resumption of the peace talks” and called on the NDF and its forces “to respond accordingly.”
Filipinos killing Filipinos for nearly half a century of conflict is “always a despicable thought to me but I hope that we can proceed with the talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines,” he said.
He also said he would spend “about 10 days after tomorrow” to firm up the framework on convergence of the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) with the Moro National Liberation Front (MILF).
In a press conference after the mass oath-taking, Duterte said he would not comment on the claims by the NDF that they were going to declare their unilateral ceasefire at 8 p.m. last Saturday, or three hours after Duterte’s deadline.
“Hindi ko papatulan iyan eh. I am not an ideological poltergeist. I am the President talking properly to you to have peace in this land,” Duterte said, adding, “hindi naman ako insecure. Eh syempre, I got 16 million, a margin of (6) million plus. Eh sila hindi nga sila makahawak ng isang barangay” (they can’t even control one barangay), Duterte said.
But Duterte said he “cannot stop talking about peace.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)