By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang said President Duterte will soon decide on whether to declare or not a unilateral ceasefire this holiday season after the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) agreed to recommend the implementation of nationwide ceasefires.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo made the statement after Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria “Joma” Sison released a joint statement saying both parties agreed to recommend the implementation of “unilateral and reciprocal nationwide ceasefires” from December 23, 2019 to January 7, 2020 to their respective principals.
In a radio interview, Panelo said President Duterte was probably already aware of the agreement signed by the government NDF in Utrecht, The Netherlands Saturday.
“Palagay ko (I would assume he already has a copy). By this time he has a copy,” he said Sunday.
“Bukas natin malalaman (We will find out tomorrow) [if he will approve it],” he added.
Based on the agreement, the declaration of the ceasefire was a measure of goodwill and confidence-building during the yuletide season.
“The ceasefires are intended to generate a positive environment conducive to the holding of informal talks preparatory to the formal meeting to resume the peace negotiations,” it read.
Duterte earlier revealed he ordered Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to return to the Netherlands and talk to Sison after scraping the formal negotiations in 2017 due to the other party’s insincerity.
However, despite Duterte’s announcement of wanting to revive the peace talks, suspected members of the NPA allegedly detonated an improvised explosive device in Borongan City, Eastern Samar last week, killing a police officer and a 69-year-old woman and wounding several others.
Early this month, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana rejected the idea of declaring a ceasefire with the New People’s Army (NPA) in the spirit of the Christmas season, arguing that communists use it to recruit fighters while the soldiers are at rest.
Last week, President Duterte ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to “crush” the NPA. However, Malacañang said this did not mean that the President was closing his doors to talk peace with the rebels.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said last week that Duterte was on top of the communist rebel’s hit list. Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said this week that two high-ranking communist rebels out to “liquidate” Duterte were killed in Quezon City.
In his radio interview, Panelo said Sison denied that they were out to kill the President.
“Yung natanggap ng mga kasama natin ay hindi totoo. Itinanggi na, eh (The information our colleagues received was false. The other party already denied it),” he said.
Meanwhile, ahead of their 51st anniversary, Panelo said Malacañang was still hopeful that the communist rebels will return to society.
“Tama na yung limang dekadang pakikipaglaban na nagresulta ng maraming patay sa magkabilang panig. Kinakailangan magkaroon ng tayo ng pangmatagalang kapayapaan sa ating bansa (The five decades of fighting is enough. A lot died already. We need to have lasting peace in our country),” he said.