DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 26 March) — The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said it will support the forging of a bilateral ceasefire agreement between the government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and vowed it will declare a unilateral ceasefire not later than March 31 before the two panels resume the fourth round of formal peace talks on April 2 to 6 in The Netherlands.
President Rodrigo Duterte on the other hand says he wants to see a signed bilateral ceasefire agreement.
The CPP announcement came after the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the communists, released on Friday in Mati City, Davao Oriental two paramilitary men Rene Doller and Carl Mark Nucos, who were captured in Lupon in the same province on February 14.
In a statement, the CPP added they are set to release four other captives in Surigao del Sur, Sultan Kudarat and Bukidnon.
“Their releases are being impeded by ongoing military and police operations in the area. The CPP urges the local commands of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to stand down and coordinate with third-party facilitators to pave the way for the releases,” it said.
It added they are expecting the GRP would make a similar unilateral declaration and release the 19 elderly and sick political detainees and four NDFP consultants as agreed upon during the March 10 to 11 backchannel talks in Utrecht.
The NDFP consultants still in detention are Eduardo Sarmiento, Leopoldo Caloza, Emeterio Antalan, and Ariel Arbitrario. Arbitrario is currently detained at the Compostela Valley Provincial Jail after he was rearrested last month in Davao City hours after Duterte tagged the CPP-NPA-NDF as “terrorists” and ordered the arrest of the those who had earlier been freed to participate in the peace talks.
The CPP urged President Duterte to order the AFP “to slow down its ongoing all-out offensive military operations and aerial bombing and shelling campaigns against rural barangays, to help create a favorable atmosphere for the mutual ceasefire.”
The CPP said the revolutionary forces are “encouraged by the determination of the NDFP and GRP to continue with peace negotiations and accelerate negotiations on the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) and the Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms (CAPCR),” which could e completed within the year through “earnest negotiations.”
“There is pressing need to complete these agreements especially in the face of mounting mass actions by workers, peasants and other oppressed sectors calling for genuine land reform, higher wages, job security, decent housing and increased social spending,” it added.
“Through peace negotiations, the Duterte government and the NDFP can unite on addressing the pressing socio-economic problems confronting the Filipino people amid the worsening crisis of the semi-colonial and semi-feudal system and the global capitalist system,” it said.
The CPP also denounced the AFP’s continuing campaign of aerial bombings and shelling.
“In the face of the AFP’s all-out offensives and aerial bombing campaigns, the New People’s Army is compelled to carry out tactical offensives and active defense actions in order to defend the peasant masses,” said the CPP.
In a report by abs-cbn.com on Sunday, Duterte said he will consult military and police on how he would respond to the CPP’s intention to declare a unilateral ceasefire.
The report said Duterte was worried the NPA rebels will not adhere to the ceasefire dclaration.
“I have to convene the National Security Council and I have to ask the generals of the army and the police,” he said.
On his arrival from official visits in Myanmar and Thailand, Duterte told reporters on March 23 that “there will be no releases (of prisoners) this time” except the elderly and the sick.
At the Integrated Bar of the Philippines’ national convention that same day, Duterte said he told government peace panel chair Silvestre Bello III that he wants a written ceasefire agreement.
Duterte was referring to a bilateral ceasefire agreement between government and the NDF. Both parties had agreed at the end of the first round of formal peace talks in August that their ceasefire committees would have 60 days within which to forge a bilateral ceasefire. No bilateral ceasefire was forged but the ceasefire committees are going to work on this in the Utrecht talks in early April.
He said he also asked Bello to inform his counterparts in the National Democratic Front (NDF) which represents the CPP and NPA in the peace negotiations, that he “will not recognize” the NDF’s claimed territory.
“I… The Republic of the Philippines owns every inch of this island of this Republic as delineated sa Constitution. Nobody but nobody claims any part of it except the Republic of the Philippines. ‘Pag wala ‘yan, giyera na lang tayo. We have been at war for 50 years. You want another 50 years? Fine.” the President said.
Duterte also said he wants a stop to the NPA’s “extortion activities and “will order the police and the military to arrest you if you keep on asking (money).”
“It has to stop kasi napapahiya ang gobyerno. Napapahiya ako. And kung hindi magbaril na lang tayo kung gusto mo” (because it humiliates government. It humiliates me. If not, let’s just shoot each other if you like).
He mentioned the newy-acquired four jets that he can deploy, some of them allegedly guided by satellites “so I can really blow you to pieces.” (Antonio L. Colina IV/ MindaNews)