ASUNCION, Davao del Norte (MindaNews / 29 July) – President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday gave the National Democratic Front (NDF) 24 hours or up to 5 p..m. on July 30 to declare a ceasefire, too, or he will lift the unilateral ceasefire he declared during his 1st State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday.
Addressing the NDF after visiting the wake of a Cafgu member who was killed in an ambush owned up by the New People’s Army (NPA) last Wednesday, a furious Duterte said: “I am asking you: are you ready to declare a ceasefire or hindi?”
He looked at his watch and noted the time. “Alas singko ng hapon.(It’s 5 p.m.). I will wait for that declaration alas singko rin bukas ng hapon (also at 5 p.m. tomorrow). That’ a good 24 hours. If I don’t get a word from you then I will lift the order of ceasefire,” Duterte said.
Duterte arrived at the camp of the 60th Infantry Battalion here at around 4:30 p.m. and landed on the solar drier inside the camp.
The media were not allowed to get near the wake but the President, who declared a media boycott on June 2, later faced the media to issue a statement for nearly 20 minutes, mostly addressed to the NDF.
In his SONA, Duterte addressed the CPP/NPA/NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines/New Peoples 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 announced 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.”
The ceasefire was to take effect immediately. He called on “our Filipinos in the National Democratic Front and its forces to respond accordingly.”
He also appealed to them that “If we cannot, as yet, love one another, then in God’s name, let us not hate each other too much.”
At the camp here, Duterte opened his statement with an address to the Filipino people, that he decided to declare a unilateral ceasefire “because I know that the Philippines needs peace to survive in the coming generations.”
“I have dealt with everybody in good faith. I’ve never foisted a lie. … I decided to declare a ceasefire with the NDF/CPP/NPA. Nauna ako. And many days ago ang reply ng komunista is parang defensive position. Hindi naman stand down,” the President said.
“That is not a good response,” Duterte said, adding he expected the NDF would respond by declaring a ceasefire, too.
He explained that the NDF knows the situation and does not need to study it further because “all they have to do is to count the body bags nga namatay sa kanila pati yung sa gobyerno.”
“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.
In a statement dated July 29, Aris Francisco, spokesperson of the the NPA’s Comval North Davao South Agusan Sub-regional Command, owned up Wednesday’s ambush in Bagnsakan, Sitio Mulig, Barangay Gupitan in Kapalong, Davao del Norte. of what they claim to be members of the Alamara paramilitary but said the military and Cafgu were “clearly on combat operation and not engaged in ‘civilian’ activities, in direct violation to President Duterte’s ceasefire order.”
A member of the Cafgu Active Auxiliary of the 72nd Infantry Battalion was killed and four others were wounded in the ambush.
Capt. Rhyan Batchar, chief of the Division Public Affairs of the 10th Infantry Division, said the Cafgu members were heading back to their camp in Sitio Patil, Gupitan when the ambush occurred. (Keith Bacongco / MindaNews)