COMMUNIST rebels said Wednesday that they would end by Feb. 10 the unilateral ceasefire they declared during the resumption of peace talks last year, accusing the Duterte administration of failing to keep its promise to release more than 200 political prisoners.
In a statement, New People’s Army spokesman Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos said that the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines will notify the Duterte administration of the withdrawal of the interim ceasefire set to expire by Feb. 10, Friday.
“With this declaration and notice, the Aug. 28 unilateral ceasefire shall effectively expire on 11:59 p.m. of Feb. 10,” the group said.
The NPA said that they will remain supportive of the peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front and the government, even as it terminated its unilateral ceasefire.
“In our experience and in the experience of other peoples, it is possible to negotiate while fighting until the substantive agreements are forged to address the roots of the armed conflict and lay the basis for a just and lasting peace,” he said.
With the lifting of the ceasefire, Madlos said NPA fighters are tasked to “counteract, frustrate and punish” all state military operations in their areas.
All NPA units were also ordered to “take full initiative in planning, coordinating and carrying out military campaigns and tactical offensives” against soldiers, policemen, the “various paramilitary units and death squads of the Duterte government,” drug traffickers, private armed groups, and spies.
The CPP and the New People’s Army on Aug. 28 declared the unilateral interim ceasefire in a bid to promote and accelerate peace negotiations between the NDF and the government. The government declared its own unilateral ceasefire soon afterward.
But in December 2016, CPP founder Jose Maria Sison threatened to call off the truce they declared if the government fails to release all political detainees by January next year.
Madlos scored the administration for its failure to release more than 200 political prisoners, and the alleged military advances on NPA-held areas and accused the military of “treacherously taking advantage” of the cease-fire to conduct “hostile actions and offensive operations” in areas occupied by the NPA.
Madlos said the NPA declared the ceasefire on Aug. 28 on the understanding that the government would free political detainees within 60 days.
The Duterte administration, he said, failed to do this even after the NPA extended the truce for another 150 days.
Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza said that while it respects the decision of the NPA to withdraw its unilateral cease-fire with the government, he would ask President Rodrigo Duterte not to lift the government’s own ceasefire.
Dureza, admitted that the government was “dismayed” by the NPA decision despite ongoing peace talks.
“This cancellation came just after some progress were made in the third round of talks in Rome, where negotiating panels from both sides agreed to further discuss a bilateral ceasefire in the Netherlands sometime end of this month,” he said.
In a speech before troops at the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Batallion at Cagayan de Oro City, Dureza denied that the government neglected its promise to effect the release of political prisoners.
The President, he said, has already released 20 jailed communists so they could particpate in ongoing peace talks and would try to free more of them.
“The problem is they are all facing criminal charges in court and the President cannot just order the opening of the prison to let them go. There are judicial processes that must be observed,” Dureza said.
Dureza remains optimistic that the two parties would be able to resolve the issue in pursuit of peace in war-torn areas.
“We must go into a bilateral agreement where you have independent monitors, you have mechanisms and you have bases when you call a violation.”
“We are looking at the end of February as another opportunity. Now with the unilateral ceasefire being declared by the CPP-NDF as canceled, what should the government do?”
Recently, a third round of peace talks ended in Rome, Italy last week with no deal on a joint and permanent ceasefire. Both sides agreed to meet for a fourth round of formal talks in Oslo by April 2-6.
Officials dealing specifically with the ceasefire will meet again sooner, in Utrecht in The Netherlands on Feb. 22-27.
On Jan. 21, a firefight broke out as the military launched offensive operations against an NPA platoon in Makilala, North Cotabato. Eight soldiers and a communist rebel were reported killed.
Army spokesman Colonel Benjamin Hao lamented the NPA decision.
“They are also terminating their desire for peace,” Hao said.
The military has also accused the NPA of attacking their forces in some parts of the country, including Tuesday’s attack in Echague, Isabela that killed two soldiers.
The Philippine National Police also expressed regret over the NPA decision to end its ceasefire. With Francisco Tuyay
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