Wednesday, November 30, 2016

President Duterte sees no need to declare unilateral ceasefire

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 30): President Duterte sees no need to declare unilateral ceasefire

President Rodrigo Duterte is not declaring another ceasefire with the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, saying, “The (existing) unilateral ceasefire remains."

“No. I am not declaring a unilateral ceasefire. Sa komunista (With the communist?)? It remains, it is holding and I’m happy,” the President told reporters shortly after visiting wounded soldiers in Camp Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro City.

It may be recalled that last August 25, Mr. Duterte declared a ceasefire with the NPA to attain peace in the country. The President has also ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to avoid offensive operations against the NPA rebels.

The declaration of the unilateral ceasefire was a move based on a consensus with all the commanding generals of the AFP, including Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

“As president, my main task is to seek peace for my country. I am not a president who would enjoy waging war against citizens of this republic. It pains me to see people dying for an ideology. Pwede naman pala mapag-usapan ng mapayapa (That we can talk about this peacefully). Just like now,” he emphasized.

The government’s unilateral ceasefire was responded by the NDF during the resumption of the talks last August.

While the existing unilateral ceasefires of the government and NPA are holding, government peace panel Chairperson Silvestre Bello III is hopeful these would lead into the final signing of the bilateral ceasefire which was initially expected to happen on December 10.

Bello, however, hinted on Wednesday that the bilateral ceasefire would not happen on December 10 because there is no consensus yet between the GRP and NDF committees working on the bilateral truce. He said the two committees are working on the definition of terms and conditions.

“But what is important is patuloy ang pag-uusap (we continue to talk),” Bello told reporters during Wednesday’s Kapehan sa Dabaw at the Royal Mandaya Hotel.

Earlier, Atty. Angela Librado, a member of the GRP panel and head of the committee working on the bilateral ceasefire, said there is no assurance the bilateral ceasefire will be signed by December 10 supposedly coinciding with the World Humanitarian Day.

According to her, the first deadline for the bilateral ceasefire was on October 26 but this has lapsed because of an impasse for lack of consensus on the definition of terms.

“There are definitions and terms that have to be agreed on. If these things are ironed out then we can discuss the bilateral ceasefire,” she said.

The GRP panel has already prepared its guidelines based on the exchanges made during the Oslo meeting but there are things that have to be ironed out and revised, Librado said. Among these is the definition of what would constitute hostile acts because both parties have different definitions “and we have to reconcile that otherwise, we won’t be able to come up with a bilateral agreement.”

Librado said it is not a simple issue of defining terminologies as they have to make sure it will reflect the interest of those who would be affected so there must be consultations.

“If we can’t finalize and don’t agree on terms and provisions of course there will be no bilateral ceasefire but we are positive things could work out well. It could be December 10 or maybe later but a bilateral ceasefire agreement would be signed,” she stressed.

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