It's the sincerity, stupid

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

The insincerity and duplicity of the Philippine communist movement have been exposed like they have never been before in the events that transpired between the surprise unilateral ceasefire declared by President Duterte during his State of the Nation Address on July 25 and his angry revocation of it just five days later. As a result, the desire of the president to strike a genuine peace deal with the Reds should be revisited and viewed with a more critical eye.

When Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire with the communists, he was not traipsing along merrily on a one-way street. He wanted reciprocity and declared so very clearly during the SONA - "I expect a positive response." Instead, the communists attacked a militia unit in Duterte's own region of Davao, not only responding negatively but insultingly as well.

It may be argued that the attackers have not received word of the government's unilateral ceasefire. But no such explanation was extended to the government as a sign of good faith. Having fought this insurgency for decades, the government expected no apology. But a clarification could have saved the day. Communist leader Jose Maria Sison, though living in self-exile half-a-world away in the Netherlands, was certainly just a call away from Duterte.

But Sison never bothered to try and clear things up. Granting he was in no position to clear things up, that he was truly in the dark about what really happened in Davao, he could still have shown some sincerity and an earnestness to pursue peace by calling up Duterte immediately and say, hey, wait, let us not make this one glitch scuttle everything. Give me time to find out what happened.

But Sison did not do that. What he did instead was issue a statement saying he needed to review the details of the government's unilateral ceasefire. What details is he talking about? There are no details. Duterte did not issue a written order. He gave a very specific order right in the SONA that he told the whole world that was watching was effective immediately. The commander-in-chief has given a direct order. What details is Sison, who was probably watching as well, talking about?

Said another way, Duterte told his troops to stop shooting at once. What is so confusing about that? Had Sison promptly reciprocated and told his cadres to stop shooting as well, the peace process could have proceeded much faster on the heels of this confidence-building measure, which is already on top of the concessions the government has given earlier.

Without being asked, Duterte appointed four people from the Left to his Cabinet. Sison never asked for any details about these appointments. He could not ask because he knew there were none. There were no catches. The appointments were not a product of some quid pro quo. It was a unilateral gesture by Duterte to show the government was honest and sincere in pursuing peace.

The declaration of a unilateral ceasefire was a follow-up gesture, a further confidence-building measure to ensure that there was no ambiguity in regarding the first. But apparently Duterte and the Reds are not on the same page. The Reds want to amass concessions but are hard-pressed to even reciprocate with just a goodwill gesture. They have been given a car but are unwilling to even offer to buy five liters of gasoline to start it.

Four appointees from the Left in the Cabinet and a unilateral ceasefire that nobody asked for, and Sison could not even press a button to call Duterte and say he will look into why the ambush happened. Instead he riled Duterte by saying he needs to look into the details of the ceasefire order. No wonder he is being hunted by some of his own comrades. The guy is duplicitous and dishonest. He cannot be trusted.

It is unclear how Duterte will go from here with the peace process. But it is good he promptly lifted the unilateral ceasefire he declared. Peace will take quite more time to achieve. So many lives have been lost in this war and the issues remain contentious as they are. But a little sincerity would have cost nothing. It was not really a ceasefire Duterte offered because government can go on fighting for as long as it takes. It was sincerity he offered but Sison just ain't up to it.

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