Rody gives NPA ultimatum

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - President Duterte has given communist rebels until today to explain their midweek attack in Davao del Norte amid a unilateral ceasefire observed by government forces.

Presidential adviser on the peace process Jesus Dureza said the President imposed the deadline on the communist rebels during his visit to the headquarters of the Army’s 60th Infantry Battalion in Asuncion, Davao del Norte yesterday.

Duterte warned he would lift the ceasefire if the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) ignored his call for the rebels to match the suspension of offensives.

“I have dealt with you in good faith. Tell me if you are not ready to deal in the same manner. I am asking you: are you ready to declare a ceasefire or not? It’s 5 p.m.,” he said yesterday. “I will wait for the declaration at 5 p.m. (Saturday). I better get a word from you or I will lift the (ceasefire) order.”

Duterte said he would not withdraw any soldier or policeman in the region as a precondition for the peace talks to proceed.

In his talk with the troops, Duterte said he is ready to put his life on the line for peace.

“So shoot me,” Duterte told the rebels. “I will face you (rebels) someday. I have no problem,” Duterte said.

“I went out of my way just to express to you our need for peace. For as long as there is war here, there will be poverty… You thought our government cannot do it, try me,” he warned.

Duterte stressed he declared the ceasefire in good faith, hoping the communist rebels would do the same in order to proceed with the peace negotiations.

“I have dealt with everybody in good faith. I never lied. It’s not part of my mandate to say lies. So I decided to declare ceasefire with the CPP-NDF. I initiated it,” he said.

“Many days ago, the response of the communists is like a defensive position. Not stand-down. That is not a good response. They don’t need to study it. All they have to do is count the body bags – those who were killed from their ranks, and then the government’s. I was expecting that they would also reciprocate my imploring for peace through the ceasefire on their side. Now, I cannot understand if they are really... for peace or they are trying to embarrass me,” he said.

“So I have to issue this statement: I am not fighting you but if you are not sincere in this process … we fight for another generation, it’s okay. I can do nothing for you.”

Dureza, for his part, added the 24-hour deadline at 5 p.m. was already an extension given by the President last Thursday, a day after NPA rebels ambushed a group of Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU), killing a militiaman in Davao del Norte.

Dureza said the deadline was extended since it would take time for the leadership of the CPP-NPA-NDF to assess the situation and make the report.

“We should continue working for the peace process but the NPA should explain why it happened,” Dureza said.

“We will give them the benefit of the doubt until after the assessment of the situation had been made,” he added.

‘Twisted story’

Aris Francisco, spokesman for the NPA in Southern Mindanao, said the communist guerrillas admit responsibility for last Wednesday’s ambush but claimed the military came out with a twisted story on the incident.

Francisco said the military made it appear the rebels did not respect the ceasefire.

He claimed the militiamen were not on their way back to camp when the ambush took place but were actually on a mission against NPA rebels in the area. 

He said that the militiamen were members of the Alamara group that operates against communist rebels.

Government peace panel chairman Silvestre Bello III said the peace talks may be compromised unless communist rebels reciprocate the government’s ceasefire offer.

Bello said it would be best for the CPP-NPA-NDF to unconditionally reciprocate the unilateral ceasefire order of President Duterte.

“I strongly reiterate the call of President Duterte to the CPP/NPA/NDF to reciprocate government’s ceasefire declaration in order to immediately stop violence on the ground, protect our communities from conflict and provide an enabling environment for the resumption of formal peace negotiations,” he said. 

Bello made the statement as he confronted NDF panel member Fidel Agcaoili regarding last Wednesday’s ambush by NPA rebels in Davao del Norte.

“It is disheartening that the NPA failed to respect the unilateral ceasefire declared by President Duterte last Monday during the SONA. Barely two days after this ceasefire declaration, the NPA ambushed yesterday government forces, killing one CAFGU member and wounding four others in Davao del Norte,” Bello said.

Bello had a talk with Agcaoili who told him that as far as he knows, the NPA is on active defense mode since July 26 as announced by Ka Oris, the rebel spokesman in the region. 

Agcaoili promised Bello that he would look into the matter.

Agcaoili reportedly told Bello that the NDF is committed to resume the peace negotiations to address the roots of the armed conflict and work towards a just and lasting peace.

The NDF is representing the CPP and the NPA in the peace negotiations with the government.

“It is best that the government’s ceasefire is reciprocated unconditionally by the NDF to build trust and confidence in the peace process and, more importantly, bring peace in our communities for the good of the people,” Bello said.


Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte has given the rebels “a window of opportunity” by proving its sincerity to go to the negotiating table.

He refused to give a timeline but stressed that it would be best for the communist rebels to reciprocate the government’s efforts toward achieving peace in the country.

Abella added the release of political prisoners is not a pre-condition to the talks but part of the negotiations itself.

Both sides are undertaking preparations for the restart of formal talks on Aug. 20-27 in Oslo, Norway.

“If things work out as planned (then the government troops might pull out from the NPA-infested areas),” Abella said, adding Duterte is assuming the communist leaders in the Netherlands were in control of the movement’s fighters in the Philippines.

The President, although upset over last Wednesday’s attack, is giving the rebels time to respond, Abella said.

Duterte on Thursday threatened to lift the unilateral ceasefire he declared unless the communist rebels explain last Wednesday’s ambush.

Duterte said he called a militant lawmaker and Bello to demand an explanation from the CPP on the incident in Davao del Norte.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), for its part, hailed Duterte for asking the communist rebels for an explanation regarding the ambush.

“That was a welcome move from the commander-in-chief whose order for the AFP is to march onwards to the path to peace,” military public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said.

“By his stern demand for an explanation, President Duterte did not only send strong signals that he is sincere to end the years of strife by being the first to extend the hand of peace; he also underscored that those who truly desire peace must also manifest in unmistakable acts their adherence to that quest,” Arevalo added.

Peace advocates, however, slammed the communists for the ambush.

“What is the NPA trying to prove? Are they telling us that they can attack government soldiers at will and get away with it? Or are they telling us that they reject President Duterte’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire?” said Ernesto Alcanzare of the group Yes for Peace-Bayanihan para sa Kapayapaan, Kaunlaran at Kasaganahan.

Domingo Alidon, president of the Department of Education National Employees Union and member of the Inter-Agency Technical Working Group of Yes for Peace, and Mama Lalanto al Haj, adviser of Yes for Peace and a member of the board of directors of the Philippine Postal Corp., have also expressed sentiments on the incident.

“Whose rights are the NPA really fighting for? The Filipino people’s rights or their right to bear arms against a duly elected government?” Alidon asked. – Giovanni Nilles, Jose Rodel Clapano, Jaime Laude, Ramon Efren Lazaro

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