Philippines Communist rebels willing to declare truce

Manila, July 31 (IANS) The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on Sunday said it was open to declaring a unilateral truce with President Rodrigo Duterte who lifted a ceasefire with the communists on Saturday.

The CPP said it was willing to declare the ceasefire in support of the peace negations with the government which is due to resume in Oslo on August 20-27, Xinhua news agency cited a statement as saying.

The CPP supported the resumption of the peace talks “as a means of discussing the roots of the armed conflict”. It also expects the government to make good its promise to release all their peace consultants and political prisoners.

“The CPP is willing to issue a unilateral ceasefire declaration separately but simultaneously with the Duterte government on August 20. The time-frame can be determined through negotiations,” it said.

The two sides “can thereafter exchange these declarations in order to discuss points for cooperation and coordination and determine ways of preventing armed skirmishes, misunderstandings and miscommunications during the course of the peace talks”, it said.

The CPP said it welcomed the government ceasefire on July 25, adding that “it is too bad that he has withdrawn such an order”.

“We trust, however, that this (lifting) will not affect preparations for formal resumption of peace negotiations in Oslo nor will it preclude the GRP president from reissuing such a declaration simultaneously with a similar unilateral declaration by the CPP and NPA (New People’s Army),” it said.

The CPP said the Central Committee had been drafting its interim ceasefire declaration since July 25 to promote the peace negotiations.

It was supposed to announce its reciprocal ceasefire declaration around 8.00 p.m. but Duterte lifted the truce on Saturday about an hour earlier.

Days earlier, he lashed at the communist movement for ambushing militiamen returning to their base in compliance with the government truce last Wednesday in Davao del Norte. One of the militiamen died and four were injured.

“It was quite capricious for the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) president to have imposed such ultimatums of a few hours or several days for the CPP to act in accordance with his whims.”

“It was quite disconcerting that the GRP would impose such an inflexible ultimatum on the CPP. Despite his anti-crime bravado, it would seem he has shown the drug lords and protectors of criminal syndicates more flexibility and accommodation,” the CPP said.

The CPP said there was actually “zero compliance” to the ceasefire on the part of the AFP.

“Its (AFP) 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,” it said.

Citing a report from the NPA unit involved in the ambush, the CPP said NPA fighters were “provoked as part of its active defence in the face of an imminent armed encounter with the operating armed troops and auxiliary forces of the 72nd IB (infantry battalion) of the AFP”.

The NPA, the armed front of the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front, has been waging war against the government for over four decades.

The communist rebellion has killed 30,000 people since 1960s, and the NPA is believed to have fewer than 4,000 men today (Sunday), down from a peak of 26,000 in the 1980s, according to the military.



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