From the Website of PHIL. STAR
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) yesterday resumed operations against the New People’s Army (NPA) after President Duterte scuttled the ceasefire with communist rebels.
Duterte also placed the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) under high alert and ordered them to sustain offensive operations.
AFP chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya has ordered all military units to withdraw from the operational guidelines issued by the President in regard to the unilateral ceasefire with the rebels.
Visaya said the NPA missed the “golden opportunity to manifest commitment to the attainment of our citizens’ much sought peace throughout the land.”
“This could have been what the Filipino nation had been waiting for – the silencing of guns that could have hastened development especially in the countryside,” he said.
AFP spokesman Brig Gen. Restituto Padilla said troops would be mobilized for combat operations.
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Padilla said troop deployment started on Saturday night following the orders of the President.
“We are doing military missions, military operations to secure our people, to protect our communities and to bring peace throughout the land, so it is not far from the desire of each soldier to want peace because essentially our soldiers are peacemakers,” Padilla said.
Army chief Lt. Gen Eduardo Año said the troops will resume operations against rebels.
“That was our former stance. We will implement the AFP’s Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan. We will continue what we were doing before, to include military operations,” Año said.
“If there is any sector that wants peace, it is us… the military, “ he stressed.
PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa ordered all police units nationwide to be on alert following the lifting of ceasefire.
“All office/units must 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 law and maintain peace in all areas of responsibility,” Dela Rosa said.
“In this regard, a lifting/withdrawal of Suspension of Offensive Police Operations against (the communist rebels) is hereby declared nationwide effective immediately,” he said.
The military’s Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) also issued a directive for all units to be on high alert and to resume operations against the NPA in the region, following the presidential directive.
Eastmincom actually covers an area where the NPA rebels are operating, particularly in Southern Mindanao.
Two days after Duterte declared the truce, the NPA attacked a group of militiamen, killing one and wounding four others in Kapalong, Davao del Norte.
Duterte had given the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) up to Saturday to explain the attack and reciprocate the unilateral ceasefire offered by the government.
The deadline lapsed with the NPA saying it could not be forced into declaring a ceasefire.
The NPA, through its spokesman Rigoberto Sanchez, said they are willing to reciprocate the government’s unilateral ceasefire but it should be in accordance with rules and guidelines of the communist leadership.
Sanchez also said Duterte should review the military operations against the rebels.
Hours after Duterte lifted the unilateral ceasefire, the CPP came up with a statement saying they would issue their own ceasefire with the government.
In the same statement, the CPP also blamed the AFP for its supposed failure to follow Duterte’s ceasefire order.
“Over the course of five days that the Duterte ceasefire declaration was in effect, there was zero compliance on the part of the AFP. Its public expression of support for the ceasefire declaration was not reflected on the ground,” the CPP said.
The CPP said it refused to order the NPA to go on a ceasefire, saying the government troops showed no plans to cease operations against the rebels.
The CPP justified the attack in Davao del Norte, saying the NPA rebels in the region were on “active defense mode” against government troops. It said the attack was made to disable the soldiers (militiamen) from carrying out “further offensive actions.”
Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza said a Cabinet meeting would be held today with the issue of ceasefire on top of its agenda.
“I will make my corresponding recommendations to the President and the whole cabinet during the scheduled meeting in the afternoon,” Dureza said in a statement yesterday.
Dureza revealed the development that the CPP had announced it is ready to declare its own truce.
He said the announcement came hours after the deadline given by Duterte on Saturday had lapsed.
“The leadership of the CPP-NPA-NDF announced through the media its belated but still strategic and awaited decision to also declare its own unilateral ceasefire,” Dureza said.
“Indeed, this is a welcome development. It affirms the value of the President’s firm actions for peace. This is what we have been waiting for,” he added.
In a statement, the CPP-NPA-NDF said they are set to declare a unilateral ceasefire on Aug. 20, in time for the resumption of formal peace talks till Aug. 27 in Oslo, Norway.
The CPP said it also expects Duterte to reissue the unilateral ceasefire he lifted on Saturday and continue the efforts to resume formal negotiations.
“It is too bad that he has withdrawn such an order. We trust, however, that this will not affect preparations for formal resumption of peace negotiations,” the CPP said.
In the same statement, the CPP said it expects Duterte to make good his promise to release all peace consultants of NDF and political prisoners.
“It was a different situation, however, when the President unilaterally declared a ceasefire even before it could fulfill its promises to release NDFP consultants and political prisoners,” the CPP said.
Dureza said there was “high expectation” that the NDF would immediately announce its own ceasefire after Duterte’s declaration during his State of the Nation Address (SONA).
“This was precisely the reason for the President’s statement in the SONA that he was calling on and expecting the NDF to respond accordingly,” he said.
The NDF is representing the CPP-NPA in the peace talks with the government.
According to Dureza, the NDF responded to Duterte’s call by saying that it is still waiting for “precise written orders” on the ceasefire.
“The Armed Forces of the Philippines and subsequently the Philippine National Police issued their respective policy guidance in writing on how they would carry on with a ceasefire in place,” Dureza said.
Dureza declined to elaborate on his recommendations, which are expected to set the tone for the peace talks this month.
“Copies thereof were sent immediately to the NDF in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Yet in spite of this, there was still no declaration from them,” he added.
Dureza noted Duterte asked the communist leadership to explain the NPA attack in Davao del Norte last July 27.
“He gave the NDF the end of the following day, July 28 to do so. Still the expected declaration was not issued,” he said.
The same appeal was made by the President during his visit to a military camp in Asuncion, Davao del Norte. Dureza said he gave the communists until 5 p.m. of July 30 to declare a truce or he would lift the government ceasefire.
“By 5 p.m. of July 30, the final deadline the President announced lapsed and still there was no declaration from the NDF. But the President still patiently waited,” Dureza said.
Instead of announcing a truce, the NPA issued “disturbing” messages, he added.
Dureza noted the NPA spokesman Sanchez made a statement that the government’s unilateral ceasefire was “non-existent” and that the military was “sabotaging” the truce.
“Its leadership also belittled the efforts of the President, saying that he could not dictate on revolutionaries,” Dureza said.
“By 7 p.m. knowing that an unanswered ceasefire declaration was not for the best interest of the nation, the President then authorized the release of a statement declaring the lifting of the ceasefire,” he added.
About an hour after Duterte called off the truce, exiled CPP founder Jose Maria Sison appeared on television saying the communists were supposed to announce a truce at 8 p.m. or three hours after the ultimatum set by the President.
Sison said on Saturday the NDF was supposed to come up with its own unilateral ceasefire but the President already declared he was lifting the unilateral ceasefire he had earlier announced.
Sison described Duterte as a “very volatile” leader who rushes to decisions without first considering other aspects of the situation, particularly the peace process.
Lawmakers called on the rebels to show their sincerity in talking peace with the government.
Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto appealed to the government and the NDF “not to pull the trigger for war” and for both sides to declare a ceasefire.
“I urge the NDF and the government not to pull the trigger but to push the reboot button. In the search for peace, deadlines should be extended, or it results in more dead bodies,” Recto said.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III dismissed calls for Malacañang to extend its deadline for the rebels, saying the government must show it means business.
“We are extending our hand of peace and friendship yet we get nothing in return. I support the President’s decision,” Sotto said.
Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito said Duterte had every reason to call off the truce as the trust has been broken.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, a former military officer, also backed Duterte’s move to lift the ceasefire with the rebels.
Trillanes also called on Duterte to kick out the militant members of his Cabinet, referring to
Secretary Rafael Mariano of the Department of Agrarian Reform and Secretary Judy Taguiwalo of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, however, said it was not likely that Duterte will fire the two Cabinet officials as he remains committed to pushing the peace talks.
Lacson said as members of the Cabinet, they are considered as Duterte’s alter egos and therefore should follow his policy guidelines.
“Even if the President took back the government ceasefire, there’s nothing that will stop the CPP-NPA to declare a ceasefire to show goodwill and good faith. Why blame the President?” Lacson said.
Lacson however said it would have been better if there had been some backdoor talks with the NDF before Duterte announced the ceasefire so the confidence-building move would have cascaded to the rebels.
For militant lawmaker Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, the peace talks should continue even after the unilateral ceasefire has been lifted by the President.
“The lifting of the government’s unilateral ceasefire is very unfortunate especially that both the government and the NDF have made initial positive advances, particularly during their informal talks last June 14-15 in Oslo,” Zarate said.
Despite the development, Zarate said the scheduled formal resumption of talks on Aug. 20 should push through since the agenda has been set, among them the matter of ceasefire declaration by the two parties.
“We are calling on the administration of President Duterte and the leadership of the NDF, as well as their respective panels, to continue to find all and every possible ways and means for the talks to proceed, for the greater interest of a just and lasting peace that our country and people have long waited for,” Zarate said. – With Alexis Romero, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Paolo Romero, Celso Amo, Jose Rodel Clapano
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