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‘Truce hinges on Oslo talks’

Reds amenable to Aug. 20 ceasefire

THE Communist Party of the Philippines on Sunday said it is willing to issue a ceasefire simultaneously with President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration on Aug. 20, when formal peace talks resume in Oslo, Norway.

“To further support peace negotiations, the CPP is willing to issue a unilateral ceasefire declaration separately but simultaneously with the Duterte government on Aug. 20. The timeframe can be determined through negotiations,” the communists said in a statement.

Party leaders have drafted a ceasefire declaration in anticipation of peace talks with the Duterte administration since June, the CPP said.

The CPP has long expressed willingness to engage in a ceasefire as long as there are peace negotiations, the statement added.

On the other hand, Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire last week even before it could fulfill his promise to release National Democratic Front consultants who were detained, as well as other political prisoners.

Duterte on Saturday lifted the unilateral ceasefire after communist rebels ambushed a group of militiamen in Davao del Norte, killing one.

Earlier, the communists, led by CPP founder Jose Ma. Sison, welcomed Duterte’s offer of a unilateral ceasefire, but did not reciprocate with their own offer of a truce.

Pep talk. President Rodrigo Duterte talks to informal settlers residing in  Davao City slums and hosts a dinner for them (inset) while assuring them of a relocation site by the time their dwellings are demolished. MALACANANG PHOTO
The communists slammed Duterte for issuing an ultimatum, and for reacting in a “capricious” way to the Davao del Norte ambush.

The communists also said the Duterte ceasefire had no effect.

“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. Not a single AFP command ordered its troops withdrawn back to their barracks,” the CPP said.

It added that Armed Forces chief Gen. Ricardo Visaya showed “zero sincerity” in his avowed support for peace talks and for the ceasefire declaration.

“Not one AFP encampment in civilian communities was taken down. Armed combat troops of the AFP stationed in and around the scores of lumad sitios did not move an inch. Thousands of lumad people remain in evacuation centers unable to safely return home,” the communists said.

A political analyst said Sunday that Sison’s group was still the right group to talk peace with, despite the end of the unilateral ceasefire.

 Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms executive director Ramon Casiple discouraged Duterte from considering localized peace talks which the Aquino administration pursued.

Militant and human rights group reminded Duterte that peace talks were “complicated” and need not be rushed, and urged him to pursue peace talks.

 Casiple said the lifting of truce has left the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front-recommended Cabinet secretaries in an awkward situation.

He said Cabinet secretaries Judy Taguiwalo of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and Rafael Mariano of the Department of Agrarian Reform will just have to sit tight until the crisis blew over.

 The left are now blaming Duterte for being “insincere” in pursuing peace.

Casiple said any unilateral ceasefire would not stand unless reciprocated by the other side.

He said localized peace talks would have worked had the leadership crisis in the revolutionary movement dragged on at the height of the reaffirm and revisionist debates.

However, Casiple said the movement was able to arrest the problem and started consolidating its forces.

“Joma remains the leader and the face of the ideology being espoused by the CPP-NDF-NPA or New People’s Army. The leaders of the troops on the ground or in the localities nationwide were part of the collective, where Joma also belongs—the Central Committee,” Casiple said.

Sison, he said, has been part of the peace negotiations since the administration of President Corazon Aquino.

“It is still best that President Duterte pursue peace talks with Sison. There were agreements and roadmaps forged in the past that can be revisited now,” Casiple said.

But Casiple said for the peace talks to succeed, both parties should start with “doables” and set aside first the heavier ones onsuch strategic issues as US imperialism.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr. said the peace talks are more complicated than some people think.

“It’s unrealistic to be giving ultimatums, whether in the matter of declaring ceasefires or in the duration and conclusion of the actual talks themselves. Had the other side imposed deadlines on the release of political prisoners for example, things would also be in a bind. Yet the other side showed flexibility and agreed to postpone the talks to allow government to effect the release of political prisoners,” Reyes said. 

“A unilateral government ceasefire declaration, no matter how good the intention, will not amount to much if the mode of implementation is questionable or if the AFP brazenly defies it in the first place,” he said. 

 Human rights group Karapatan said any unilateral ceasefire declaration by the government was empty and defective unless the Oplan Bayanihan, the military’s anti-insurgency program, was junked. 

Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto on Sunday called on the government and the NDF not to be too quick to pull the trigger of war and explore the possibility of declaring a reciprocated ceasefire.

As this developed, Senator Panfilo Lacson  said if the CCP-NPA wants to show its goodwill and good faith, it can declare a ceasefire even if Duterte recalled his unilateral ceasefire  after a 5 p.m. deadline he had set passed without a response from communist insurgents.

“Why should they blame the President? They can declare a ceasefire to demonstrate their goodwill,” Lacson said in Filipino on dzBB.

“Where’s the good faith there? Instead of conducting an investigation to find out what happened [in Davao del Norte], they already have a statement that the AFP violated the ceasefire which resulted to the killing of the Cafgu,” said Lacson. “Who are they fooling?”

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, on the other hand, said the lifting of the ceasefire was “very unfortunate” and said he was concerned that the positive impact of initial talks between the two sides might go to waste.

“We hope that, despite this development, the scheduled formal resumption of talks on Aug. 20 will still push through. Part of the agenda set in their June 15 joint statement was the matter of ceasefire declaration by the two parties,” he said.

 “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 awaited for.”

The militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas also warned that the ceasefire issue could prove prejudicial to the peace talks, and urged Duterte not to use a truce as a condition for negotiations.

Militant students led by the League of Filipino Students on Sunday also expressed disappointment over the lifting of a ceasefire against the communists. With Macon Ramos-Araneta and Rio N. Araja

Topics: President Rody Duterte , Oslo talks , ceasefire , CPP , AFP , NDF , NPA
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