NDFP says Duterte’s truce declaration “insincere”

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 19 March) – The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) on Wednesday dismissed as insincere and a “mere psywar trick” the government’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire in light of the public health emergency triggered by the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Maj. Gen. Franco Nemesio Gacal (right) leads turnover rites at the Army’s 403rd Infantry Brigade in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon on Monday (10 February 2020), with Col. Ferdinand Barandon (left) taking over the command from Brig. Gen. Edgardo de Leon. MindaNews photo by RICHEL V. UMEL

President Duterte announced the unilateral ceasefire in a briefing Tuesday on the implementation of an enhanced community quarantine covering the entire Luzon island.

He said the ceasefire would facilitate the delivery of services to areas hit by the disease.

Palace spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the truce will take effect from March 19 to April 15.

But in a statement Wednesday, NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said “there is yet no clear basis for the NDFP to reciprocate the aforesaid declaration of the GRP.”

“There is communication going on between the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels. But there is yet no agreement for reciprocal unilateral ceasefires in connection with certain considerations, requirements and modalities. There has to be catch-up on these matters, if still possible. The ceasefire declaration by the GRP or the Duterte regime is premature, if not insincere and false,” Sison said.

“The NDFP is not assured and satisfied that the reciprocal unilateral ceasefires are based on national unity against Covid-19, the appropriate solution of the pandemic as a medical problem and protection of the most vulnerable sectors of the population, including workers, health workers, those with any serious ailments and the political prisoners,” he said.

He added that unless the NDFP receives “sufficient assurances from the GRP,” it would be inclined to think that “the unilateral ceasefire declaration is not sincere and is not intended to invite reciprocation by the NDFP but is meant to be a mere psywar trick.”

Sison said the “lack of sincerity” was shown in alleged sustained attacks against social activists and human rights defenders and against guerrilla fronts of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Pia Paraiso, NPA media liaison officer in Bukidnon said troops from the 403rd Infantry Brigade have continued to attack their guerrilla bases despite the spread of Covid-19.

On Thursday, helicopter gunships could be seen flying from the brigade’s headquarters in Malaybalay towards the eastern part of Bukidnon, site of several skirmishes between government forces and NPA rebels. (MindaNews)