Unilateral ceasefire with Reds cancelled
(The Philippine Star) - July 31, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – President Duterte last night ordered the lifting of the unilateral ceasefire with communist rebels.

“Let me now announce that I am hereby ordering the immediate lifting of the unilateral ceasefire that I ordered last July 25 against the communist rebels,” Duterte said in a statement.

Duterte ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to withdraw from the operational guidelines in relation to the ceasefire with the rebels.

Duterte also placed the military and police forces on high alert.

“I am ordering 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 and order,” the President said.

Duterte issued the statement last night through Presidential Assistant on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza, two hours after the 5 p.m.  deadline had lapsed.

Duterte had given the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) until 5 p.m. yesterday to explain the midweek attack in Davao del Norte despite the unilateral ceasefire initiated by the government.

The deadline lapsed yesterday with the NPA saying it could not be forced into declaring a ceasefire.

Rigoberto Sanchez, spokesman of the NPA’s Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command, said the NPA is willing to reciprocate the government’s unilateral ceasefire but it should be in accordance with rules and guidelines of the communist leadership.

Sanchez said Duterte should first scrutinize his troops and review its military operations before the NPA could declare any ceasefire.

Sanchez said in reality, there was no ceasefire declaration from the government, pointing out the military operations against the rebels that led to the ambush of paramilitary forces, killing a militiaman in Kapalong, Davao del Norte last Wednesday.

“The New People’s Army Regional Operations Command avers that there is no conspicuous and veritable unilateral ceasefire exercised by AFP, PNP, and paramilitary troops in Southern Mindanao, five days after its commander-in-chief, GRP President Rodrigo Duterte, proclaimed such an order in his State of the Nation Address on July 25,” Sanchez said in a statement.

“Pending its own unilateral ceasefire declaration, the NPA has placed its troops on active defense mode,” Sanchez said.

The rebels claimed the AFP is giving false information to the President to justify its counter-insurgency operations despite the declaration of the ceasefire.

The military, however, denied the NPA’s allegation and called on the rebels to stop resorting to propaganda.

Dureza said this development will not affect the peace negotiations with the rebels.

“It will not in any way affect the peace talks. Because we know even when we agreed to resume peace negotiations, we have tabled an agenda item the discussion on the current ceasefire. At that time, we did not even consider that a unilateral ceasefire will be declared by the President in the SONA,” Dureza said.

He said the peace talks will push through despite the setback.

“It will push through, we have scheduled it Aug. 20 up to the 27th. So, we will push through as originally scheduled,” he said.

Dureza said any ceasefire declaration will come later during the negotiations.

“We can fine tune our ceasefire arrangements. When you conduct a bilateral negotiated ceasefire, the mechanisms and the other collateral arrangements will be discussed across the table,” he said.

Dureza also downplayed the rebel claims that the ambush in Davao del Norte was instigated by the military. He said the military is in full support of the President’s call for a ceasefire.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the President was disappointed with the rebels.

Dureza agreed with Abella’s observations.

“The government is committed to achieving its goal of final and lasting peace, however it is urgent to immediately stop fighting on the ground to spare the civilians the rigors of conflict and for both government and the communists to start working together for the peace,” Dureza said. – With Jaime Laude

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