PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Friday ended the government’s unilateral ceasefire with the communist rebels after they staged a series of attacks on government troops.
Duterte declared an end to the ceasefire in a speech in North Cotabato, two days after the New People’s Army announced that the rebels were lifting their own unilateral ceasefire effective Feb. 10.
“I told General [Eduardo] Año and said, I will lift the cease-fire tonight. No more ceasefire,” Duterte said in a speech at M’lang, North Cotabato on Friday.
The government’s declaration will take effect immediately.
“I lost so many soldiers in 48 hours, to continue the ceasefire, we will not produce anything…Go back to your camps, clean your rifles, and be ready to fight,” the President said.
“I don’t want killings, but if my soldiers are dying, let’s resume anytime,” he added.
“I tried my best, but I guess it wasn’t good enough,” the President said. “In my view, there will be no peace in this land… with the Communist Party. We will continue the war.”
Duterte’s instructions went against the advice of Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza and government chief negotiator and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to continue with the government ceasefire.
In the same speech, Duterte, a self-confessed leftist, berated communist rebels for their “unreasonable demands,” saying that the release of some of the prisoners needed to go through the processes of the courts.
“I went out of my way to release their leaders, so they could attend the Oslo talks. Now there is this demand to release 400 of their political prisoners. That’s like granting an amnesty,” he said.
Duterte said he was willing to fight the communists for 50 more years.
“I guess that peace with the communists cannot be realized during our generation… I don’t want to engage in fighting, but if you continue fighting our men, let’s just resume. Anytime. They said [their ceasefire would stop on] Feb. 10, but they kept on [ambushing our troops],” he said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the death of three soldiers killed by the NPA in a recent encounter was the “last straw” for Duterte.
“The President was upset. His last straw was the attack on soldiers, now the NPA would like to twist the true story that the slain soldiers were operating against them,” Lorenzana said.
Last Wednesday, a junior military officer, 2nd Lt. Miguel Victor Alejo of the Philippine Military Academy “Sinag-lahi” Class of 2015, was killed in an NPA attack at Sitio Paliwason, Barangay Lambog, Manay, Davao Oriental along with three other soldiers in separate NPA attacks.
Two soldiers from the 39th Infantry Battalion, meanwhile, were abducted by 10 suspected NPA rebels at Purok 7, Barangay Telafas, Columbio, Sultan Kudarat on Thursday while in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, three soldiers were killed by suspected NPA guerrillas.
Lorenzana said that the NPA attacks provoked the government to end its own ceasefire.
“This is provocation. It was wrong for them to do that. We are fully cooperating with them and the effectivity of their ceasefire is Feb. 10 but they started attacking as early as two days, three days ago,” he added.
Quoting Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza, who met with Lorenzana and other top military officials in a security cluster meeting, said peace talks could continue despite the resumption of fighting.
“The President never said that the peace talks won’t we continued,” he added.
“What our negotiators are pushing for is a bilateral ceasefire so that there will be a mechanism to control the actions of both sides.”
Año on Friday said the military would go after the NPA now that the ceasefire has been lifted.
“We will hit them hard,” Año said.
“We will go after the NPA to prevent them from conducting atrocities and criminal activities against the public,” said Año.
Año said the series of attacks perpetrated by the NPA clearly indicates insincerity and deception under the mantle of ceasefire to advance their interest–the use of violence.
The New People’s Army on Friday claimed at least 20 offensive operations against the military in the provinces of Agusan, Surigao and Davao; as well as in Bukidnon and Sultan Kudarat in Mindanao, Isabela and Batangas in Luzon and in Panay in the Visayas.
“Units and commands of the New People’s Army [NPA] have carried out at least 20 military actions across the country over the past five days in response to the clamor of the people to defend their rights and welfare against fully-armed occupation troops of the AFP,” Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos, NPA spokesperson, said in a statement sent to reporters.
As of Friday, Madlos said that at least five soldiers have been captured and are being treated as prisoners of war (POWs) while many were killed and wounded in the armed attacks.
In Bukidnon, police investigators said the three soldiers from the 8th Infantry Battalion suffered a total of 76 gunshot wounds. They were killed a day after the NPA announced the termination of their cease-fire effective Feb. 10.
The Armed Forces condemned the recent attacks.
“These acts are not only violations of their own ceasefire declaration, that is still in effect, it is an utter disregard to international humanitarian law when they used excessive force on the bodies of three soldiers they earlier abducted,” AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said. With Lance Baconguis, PNA