After both the Philippine government (GPH) and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) lifted their separate, unilateral ceasefires, President Rodrigo Duterte declared that he was terminating the formal peace negotiations between the two parties.
“Peace talks will remain cancelled unless there is a compelling reason that will benefit the interest of the nation,” Duterte said. He added, “Peace with the communists may not come in this generation.”
He also said he would not release the over 400 political prisoners still in jail. The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) has criticized him for failing to fulfill his promise to grant freedom to the political prisoners.
MLANG, North Cotabato — President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday asked soldiers to “go back to your camp, clean your rifle and be ready to fight” as he said he was terminating the government’s unilateral ceasefire with communist rebels.
“There will be no peace in this land vis-à-vis the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines). Sa kanila February 10 pa pero marami na akong patay na sundalo (They said they are ending it on February 10, but many of my soldiers have already died),” he said in a speech at the launching of the solar-powered irrigation system in Barangay (village) Janiuay here.
“(It) will not produce anything,” the President added.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) welcomed Duterte’s termination of the government’s unilateral ceasefire with the New People’s Army, pledging to run after the communist rebels.
“We will go after the NPA to prevent them from conducting atrocities and criminal activities against the public. And we will hit them hard,” Gen. Eduardo Año, AFP chief, said in a statement.
But the Central Command (CentCom) will continue to uphold the unilateral ceasefire it declared against the New People’s Army (NPA) in the Visayas Region, said Lt. Col. Luzmindo Mamaug Jr., Centcom spokesperson.
Mamauag said that as of 6 p.m. yesterday they haven’t received any word from higher headquarters of suspension of the unilateral ceasefire against the Communist Party of the Philippines.
“(But) if ever ang president magsulti (the president will tell us) to continue the fight, we will then. We are always prepared for war. That is our way of living-soldiery,” Mamaug said.
The NPA announced on Wednesday the termination of its unilateral ceasefire effective Feb. 10 but said it would still support the peace talks, the fourth round of which is scheduled later this month in The Netherlands.
The government and communists each declared a unilateral ceasefire last August. It was broken after a firefight in Makilala, North Cotabato last week, which left one rebel dead.
Six soldiers, including an Army lieutenant, were killed, and several incidents of abduction and extortion, supposedly done by the NPA, have been reported by the military since Sunday.
Because of the ongoing negotiations between the government and the communists, the military earlier recommended maintaining the ceasefire. The President, however, wanted to lift the government ceasefire as of Thursday night.
“We welcome the pronouncement of the President because the AFP has to do its mandate of protecting the people, securing the community and taking care of our own soldiers too,” Año said.
But he said the AFP would continue to support the peace talks.
“We hear the people’s clamor for peace and are willing to work hard to attain it, but it is unfortunate that the CPP-NPA-NDF chooses to play deaf,” he said.
The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Pary of the Philippines (CPP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF).
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana ordered Año to place the troops on high alert following the President’s instructions.
“I have instructed the chief of staff to place our troops on high alert and to continue their protection of the communities under their care, wherever they are,” Lorenzana said
DAVAO CITY – President Rodrigo Duterte is asking the Philippine delegation to the peace negotiations to “fold up the tents and come home” as he is pulling out government from the talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
This came after the President lifted the government’s unilateral ceasefire with the communist rebels in response to the New People’s Army’s (NPA) decision to lift their unilateral ceasefire effective Feb. 10.
In an interview during his visit to the tomb of his mother on Saturday night, Duterte said, “I am not ready to resume peace talks. As I have said…I’d like to tell the Filipino people peace with communists might not come in this generation.”
The next peace talks, Duterte said, could come after his term “if there is one”. “Peace talks will remain cancelled unless there is a compelling reason that will benefit the interest of the nation,” he said.
When asked what will happen to his campaign promise, Duterte said he has tried everything and even walked the extra mile by releasing their leaders to pave the way for the resumption of the peace talks in Oslo, Norway.
But the President noted he was being pressed to release all 400 political prisoners. “I have tried everything…I walk the extra mile…release prisoners…release the leaders so they can go to Oslo to talk…now they want 400+ prisoners who fought the government under a rebellion kind.”
The President reiterated that releasing all political prisoners can be done only after successful talk.
“Di ka mag release sa prisohan (You can’t release from the prison) at the beginning. So what’s there to talk about? Kung i-release ko lahat sila (If I will release them all) why bother to talk. I told soldiers to go home to your camps, clean your guns and prepare for long struggle.”
The Duterte administration released 21 political prisoners, who are members and consultants of the NDFP, before the start of the peace talks in Oslo in August. This is the biggest number ever released in the history of the peace process.
The President’s order to pull out from the talks is the 16th disruption so far recorded in the history of the peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP.
In 2001, the formal peace negotiations was stalled after the NDFP withdrew from the negotiating table on account of the renewed inclusion in the US terrorist list of the Communist Party of the Philippines founding chair Jose Maria Sison and the CPP-NPA. During the Rome talks last month, both sides agreed that the GRP peace panel will recommend that President request the US government to take out Sison’s name from the list.
Talks resumed in 2004 but broke down again in 2005 when NDFP called for the ouster of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
In February 2011, both parties agreed to complete the talks but the NDFP suspended talks in June of the same year on the issue of prisoner release. There was also the failure on the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) verification.
Another disruption: the NDFP reportedly backtracked from their commitments and insisted on their demand that the government release their 14 priority consultants, who are all facing criminal charges in various courts, before formal peace negotiations are resumed.
Although there had been informal talks through the facilitation of the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG) as third party facilitator, these were stymied by prejudicial questions, impediments and preconditions raised at the negotiating table.
Following his election in May, Duterte promised to release all their leaders to open the talks again with the Left.
True to his promise, in June before his inauguration, Duterte sent Jesus Dureza and Silvestre Bello III – later appointed as Presidential Peace Adviser and Labor Secretary and GRP panel chair, respectively – to Oslo to initially discuss with NDFP Chief Consultant Jose Maria Sison and NDFP chair Luis Jalandoni.
In that talk, both sides agreed to resume the talks, accelerate the process for negotiations and reconstitution of the JASIG, among others.
During his inauguration in July, Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire before the formal peace talks started in August although this was lifted shortly after an attack of government forces in Compostela Valley. The President restored the unilateral ceasefire before the start of the formal talks in August, last year.
On Aug. 22, the first round of formal peace talks resumed in Oslo. It was also in the first round that the NDFP declared on Aug. 26 its own unilateral ceasefire that the NPA is terminating effective Feb. 10.
Milestones in Rome
At the third round on Jan. 19 – 26 in Rome, significant milestones were sealed by the both sides: the signing of the supplemental guidelines for the Joint Monitoring Committee on the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) that will govern the process of filing complaints for human rights violation of both sides; the signing of the ground rules for GRP and NDFP committee work on the socio-economic reforms; signing of completed drafts on Political and Constitutional Reforms; and their commitment to move the talks forward despite some setbacks.
The GRP and NDFP ceasefire committees are supposed to meet on February 22 in Utrecht, Netherlands to discuss the GRP draft proposal for a bilateral ceasefire and the depositing of the list of names of NDFP consultants using aliases.
The fourth round of talks is supposed to take place April back in Oslo.
During the Saturday night interview, Duterte said he is no longer interested. He added, “I am not interested in arguing with them.