DAVAO CITY – The Communist Party of the Philippines announced that it will declare a unilateral ceasefire on August 20, the day scheduled for the formal resumption of peace talks in Oslo, Norway.
In a statement posted on its website Sunday, July 31, the CPP said they are optimistic that the peace negotiations will resume even with President Rodrigo Duterte’s lifting of the unilateral ceasefire declaration on Saturday evening, July 30 five days after it was announced during his first State of the Nation Address.
“It is too bad that he has withdrawn such an order. We trust, however, that this will not affect preparations for formal resumption of peace negotiations scheduled for August 20-27 in Oslo, Norway, nor will it preclude the GRP President from reissuing such a declaration simultaneously with a similar unilateral declaration by the CPP and NPA on August 20,” the CPP said.
It said that they are still willing to work with the President in the peace negotiations.
The time-frame of its unilateral ceasefire can be determined through negotiations, it said.
President Duterte lifted the unilateral ceasefire after the CPP failed to reciprocate its ceasefire declaration on a deadline set by the President.
The deadline set at 5:00 pm on Saturday was the second ultimatum given by Duterte to the CPP.
Duterte first gave a deadline for the CPP to explain the attack against members of the Cafgu Active Auxiliary on the morning of July 27 in Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte during his visit to the soldiers of the Southern Luzon Command in Lucena City, Quezon Province on Thursday, July 28. A Cafgu was killed and two others were wounded.
Duterte said the CPP should answer by Thursday night.
“I told them, give me an answer by tonight because if there is no answer until tomorrow, I will withdraw the (ceasefire declaration). Let’s go back to fighting. If that’s what you want,” he said.
On Thursday night, National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace panel member Fidel Agcaoili was quoted in news reports as saying that they will investigate the incident.
On Friday afternoon the New People’s Army said the ambuscade was meant to thwart the military offensive of the Cafgu Active Auxiliary of the 72nd Infantry Battalion and armed Alamara paramilitary troops.
Duterte, on Saturday, also ordered the government troops to “withdraw the operational guidelines they issued in pursuance to that ceasefire declaration.”
He said that all security forces “to be on high alert” and “continue to discharge their normal functions and mandate to neutralize all threats to national security, protect the citizenry, enforce the laws and maintain peace in the land.”
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza in a statement on Sunday, July 31 said “the President walked the extra mile for peace.”
“And no doubt, he will still continue to do so at any given opportunity,” he added.
Dureza said he make his recommendations to the President and the whole Cabinet in a scheduled meeting on Monday, August 1.
CPP tells Duterte: ‘Exercise a little more prudence’
The CPP said Duterte should “exercise a little more prudence and display more measured temperament as a way of appreciating the situation from a broader historical perspective in order to avoid such impulsive acts as imposing ultimatums by the hour on a conflict that has spanned nearly fifty years.”
When Duterte announced the unilateral ceasefire during his Sona, the CPP and NPA ordered its guerilla fighters to go on active defense mode, “just one notch below a ceasefire,” it said.
“By going on active defense, the NPA sought to help promote an atmosphere favorable to peace talks without sacrificing the safety of the NPA and the peasant masses,” the CPP said.
It said that the CPP Central Committee had been “refining its draft interim ceasefire declaration as a way of further promoting the NDFP-GRP peace negotiations and reciprocating the July 25 ceasefire declaration by GRP President Duterte,” since Monday.
The CPP said through the Information Bureau, an announcement was made at past 4:00 p.m. yesterday (July 30) that a reciprocal ceasefire declaration was set to be issued by the CPP at around 8:00 p.m. last night.
“That Malacañang’s announcement withdrawing the ceasefire declaration was made at around 7:30 p.m. lacks circumspect to say the least,” it said.
NPA claims ceasefire non-existent in southern Mindanao
Meanwhile, in a statement on Saturday, the New People’s Army Southern Mindanao Region Operations Command said that the government’s unilateral ceasefire is “non-existent” in Southern Mindanao.
It said that the Army in North Cotabato “identified 13 barrios in Kidapawan City to be placed under Peace and Development Outreach Program (PDOP) to purge them of “communist-influence” while its troops are currently in clearing operations in Magpet town.”
Rigoberto Sanchez, NPA spokesman said: “On July 27, platoons of the 84thIB were deployed in far-flung communities of Toril, Davao City. In Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur, troops of the 2nd Scout Rangers Battalion conducted combat operations on July 29.”
The NPA also claimed that the Cafgu who were killed on Wednesday,
The CPP also said that they will not allow “to be browbeaten to order the NPA to go on a ceasefire” while the Army “showed no plans on letting up in their search-and-destroy operations and frenzied offensives that terrorize civilian communities.”
“To say the least, continuing offensives of the AFP prevented the CPP from declaring an interim ceasefire sooner,” it said.
Army denies NPA’s claims
However, the Army said that the CAA who were ambushed in Davao del Norte were not on offensive operations “even after the declaration of a unilateral ceasefire”.
Major Ezra Balagtey, chief of the Public Information Office of the Eastern Mindanao Command said they issued a directive suspending all offensive operations to all its units.
Capt. Rhyan Batchar in a previous statement, also said that the CAAs were on their way back to the camp when they were ambushed.
After the President’s order to lift the ceasefire, Balagtey said they have issued a directive for all Army units to be on high alert and to resume operations against the NPAs. (davaotoday.com)