COMMUNIST rebels announced on Saturday it will declare a unilateral ceasefire not later than March 31 but President Rodrigo Duterte said he will take the matter under advisement because of the actions of the New People’s Army during the last truce.
“I have to consult the Speaker, I have to consult the Senate President. I have to convene the National Security Council and I have to ask the generals of the army and the police,” Duterte said during the groundbreaking of a drug rehabilitation center in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon.
“Especially the military and police, I will call for a meeting and ask them whether it would be good at this time because I already got mad because they decided to lift the ceasefire [last Feb. 1]. That was also unilateral,” he added.
“If they don’t follow it, there will just be an aberration in the system of talking peace,” he said, recalling the Feb. 3 incident when three soldiers were ambushed in Malaybalay City. One of the troopers sustained more than 70 gunshot wounds.
He reiterated his rejection of the communist rebels’ claim that certain parts of the country were considered their territory, especially since this was being used as an excuse to ambush soldiers.
“I don’t like that,” he said. “That is a pretext to ambush my soldiers. We would have nothing to talk about if that’s the case.”
Duterte made the remark after government and National Democratic Front negotiators signed a joint agreement to revive the talks that Duterte called off last Feb. 3 after the killing of the three soldiers.
The resumption of the talks was announced after Duterte demanded last March 3 that the communists comply with three “requests:” a genuine ceasefire done in sincerity, the release of all soldiers and civilians being held captive by the NPA and a stop to NPA extortion activities.
On Saturday, the Communist Party of the Philippines announced the looming ceasefire.
“The CPP said it looks forward to a similar unilateral ceasefire declaration by the [government] as mutually agreed upon in the March 10-11 backchannel talks,” the communist rebels said in a statement.
The peace negotiations, now on its fourth round, will resume next month following successful backchannel talks in Utrecht last March 10 to 11.
The CPP likewise called on the government for a “slow down” on the military’s ongoing all-out offensive and aerial bombing and shelling campaigns against NPA-held areas “to help create a favorable atmosphere for the mutual ceasefire.”
The CPP also said that they are anticipating the release of 19 elderly and sick political prisoners, as well as four detained NDFP consultants and one other recently rearrested.