Duterte’s lifting of unilateral ceasefire: the second since July 30

DAVAO CITY  (MindaNews /04 February) – President Rodrigo Duterte’s lifting of the unilateral ceasefire with communist rebels effective Friday night was the second since he declared it during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 25, 2016.

On July 30, Duterte ordered its “immediate lifting” following the killing of a Cafgu personnel and the wounding of three others in an ambush by the New People’s Army (NPA), in Kapalong, Davao del Norte.

Attending the wake of the Cafgu on July 29, a furious Duterte addressed the rebels: “Are you ready to declare a ceasefire or hindi?” (not?)

He gave them 24 hours or up to 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 30, to reciprocate the ceasefire. “That’ a good 24 hours. If I don’t get a word from you then I will lift the order of ceasefire,” he said. He did, two hours after his ultimatum lapsed, in a statement released by Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza.

“Clean your rifles and be ready to fight”

Duterte gave no 24-hour ultimatum this time. Not even a 24-hour notice of effectivity. At the ceremonial switch-on of a solar-powered irrigation system in Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol’s hometown in M’lang, North Cotabato on Friday afternoon (Feb. 3),  he announced he had informed Armed Forces (AFP) Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Eduardo Ano Thursday night that he was lifting the ceasefire effective Friday night. The exact time was not mentioned.

President Rodrigo Duterte announces in M’lang, North Cotabato on February 3, 2017 that he would lift the unilateral ceasefire with the communist rebels effective that night. KIWI BULACLAC/ Presidental Photo

He said he lost “so many soldiers in just 48 hours” that “to continue with a ceasefire does not or will not produce anything.”

“Therefore I’m asking the soldiers, Go back to your camps, clean your rifles and be ready to fight. I am sorry but that is how it is,” Duterte said. The crowd applauded.

“But I’m sad to report to you that there will be no peace with the communists for the next generation. Paubusan lang talaga ‘to. Walang magawa. Wala akong magawa,” (We’ll just be finishing off each other. I can’t do anything. I can’t do anything), he added. The crowd again applauded.

Duterte’s order came two days after the communist rebels announced that the unilateral ceasefire it issued on August 28 “shall effectively expire on 11:59 p.m. of February 10.”

New People’s Army spokesperson Ka Oris announces on February 1, 2017 the termination of their unilateral ceasefire effective 10 February. Screengrab from the Philippine Revolution Web Central’s Facebook page

NPA spokesperson Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos cited two reasons for terminating its unilateral ceasefire:  that the government “has not complied with its obligation to amnesty and release all political prisoners” and that the government has “treacherously taken advantage of the unilateral declaration of interim ceasefire to encroach on the territory of the people’s democratic government,” claiming the AFP has occupied at least 500 villages nationwide “which are within the authority of the revolutionary government.”

The last time Duterte was in M’lang was on August 3, 2015 when as Davao City mayor testing the waters for a Presidential bid, he graced the 64th Foundation anniversary of the town and said that more than just talking peace, the next President of the Philippines should understand the root causes of the conflicts and honor the peace agreements.

Pinol, Governor of North Cotabato from 1998 to 2007, introduced Duterte as “the next President of the Republic of the Philippines.”

“My goal.. my dream..”

In his first SONA, Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire with the Communist Party of the Philippines New People’s Army, National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) “effective immediately” to “stop violence on the ground, restore peace in the communities and provide an enabling environment conducive to the resumption of the peace talks.”

Duterte also called on the NDF to “respond accordingly.”

“We will strive to have a permanent and lasting peace before my term ends. That is my goal. That is my dream,” he said. Duterte’s term ends on June 30, 2022.

On July 31, a day after the President lifted the ceasefire, Dureza announced the first round of formal peace talks will proceed as scheduled on August 20 to 27.

On August 19, the NDF declared a seven-day unilateral ceasefire that was to start at 12:01 a.m. on August 21 and end at 11:59 p.m. on August 27 “but open to discussing a longer period.” Seven days corresponded to the schedule of the first round of formal talks, inclusive of travel. It later declared an indefinite ceasefire effective 12:01 a..m. of August 28.

On August 20, Dureza, before departing for the peace talks in Oslo, announced that the President “has restored the effects of the unilateral ceasefire with the CPP/NPA/NDF effective 12 midnight, 21 August.”

He said the 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.”

Curiously, Duterte announced the restoration of the ceasefire five nights after Dureza’s statement that he (Duterte) had restored it.

Duterte called for a near midnight press conference outside a restaurant in Davao City on August 25, to say that “effective this hour, it’s 11:35 (p.m.) as of today (Aug. 25), I am declaring a ceasefire so I am joining the CPP in its desire to seek peace for this.”

February 3 lifting

In M’lang on Friday, Duterte cited “unreasonable demands” of the communist rebels, such as the release of 400 political prisoners and explained he had conceded so much to them.

He said fighting has been going on for the last 50 years. “Ang ibig sabihin gusto ninyo another 50 years? Wala nang katapusan?,” (You mean you want another 50 years? No end?), Duterte asked.

“Let it not be said that I did not try. So I guess that peace with the communists cannot be realized during our generation. Maybe years from now,” he said.

He said the NPA announced it would end their unilateral ceasefire effective February 10 but what happened shortly after was “ambush dito, ambush doon, sa Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao.”

Honor guards stand at the wake of 1Lt Miguel Victor Alejo in St. Peter Chapel and Funeral Home in Panacan, Davao City on February 3, 2017. Alejo, a member of PMA Class 2015 “Sinag-lahi” was killed in an ambush by suspected members of the New People’s Army on February 1, 2017 in Manay, Davao Oriental. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

In Mindanao alone, hours after Madlos’ Feb. 1 announcement, three soldiers in Bukidnon were abducted allegedly by the NPA and found dead hours later. A 2nd Lieutenant was also killed in an ambush allegedly by the NPA  in Manay, Davao Oriental while another soldier was injured.

The night before Duterte lifted the ceasefire, he told the national convention of the Philippine Association of Water Districts in Davao City he has “surrendered, conceded too much too soon.”

He said he has released their leaders from prison. “Now they want 400 released. My God that is already releasing all. Para na akong nag-amnesty which is usually given after a successful negotiation.”

“Ang sabi ko, huwag ninyo akong ipitin because the military might not like it. And then if the military would oust me, would kill me, you have nobody talking to you,” Duterte said.

He added that the military will support him if they think he is right. “400 is 400. It is already as if the talks are over and there is a successful formula. So what is there to show?”  (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)