President Rodrigo Duterte went out of his way and gave the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) every opportunity to reciprocate the unilateral ceasefire he declared, a senior government official said Sunday.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said Duterte lifted the ceasefire Saturday night because he knew that an unanswered truce was not in the country’s best interest.
In a statement, Dureza recalled the events which transpired beginning the President’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire in his first State of the Nation Address last July 25.
Following Duterte’s announcement, the Cabinet official said “there was high expectation” that the NDF will make its own declaration of a truce as a response to the Chief Executive and consistent with unilateral ceasefire made during the Christmas holiday season.
But instead of heeding the President’s call to “respond accordingly,” Dureza said the NDF chose to wait for details of the ceasefire on July 26. In contrast, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police issued their respective policy guidelines in writing on how they would carry on with a ceasefire in place.
Dureza said copies of the directives from the AFP and PNP top brass were sent to NDF leaders based in Utrecht, the Netherlands.
On July 27, without a similar declaration of ceasefire from communist rebels, a firefight broke out in Davao del Norte between members of the NPA and government militiamen. The encounter resulted in the death of a civilian auxiliary force member.
Following the incident, Duterte sought an explanation from the CPP-NPA-NDF and gave them until July 28 to do so.
Even with a deadline in place, the guerrillas failed to issue a declaration of a ceasefire.
Dureza said the communist rebels remained unresponsive even when Duterte made another public appeal to them when he visited a military camp in Asuncion, Davao del Norte on July 29.
“Although already obviously disappointed and exasperated, he announced 5 o'clock the following day ( July 30) as a final deadline otherwise he would lift the government's ceasefire in order to further secure the civilians and secure the peace,” he said.
Dureza said the President “patiently waited” even when the 5 p.m. deadline had lapsed and the CPP-NPA-NDF had not issued its own declaration of a ceasefire.
In contrast, the NPA began issuing “disturbing messages” around that time, including a claim by its Southern Mindanao Regional Command claimed the government's unilateral ceasefire was "non-existent" as it also blamed the AFP as "sabotaging" the ceasefire.
“Its leadership also belittled the efforts of the President , saying that he could not dictate on the revolutionaries,” Dureza said.
It was only at 7 p.m. Saturday that Duterte lifted the ceasefire and placed troops on “high alert.”
Following the President’s announcement, CPP founder Jose Maria Sison went on air to say the group was set to declare its own ceasefire by 8 p.m.
“From the above, it is very clear that the President walked the extra mile for peace. And no doubt, he will still continue to do so at any given opportunity,” Dureza said.
He said he will make his corresponding recommendations to the President and the entire Cabinet during their meeting scheduled Monday afternoon. —ALG, GMA News