DAVAO CITY, Philippines — President Duterte vowed that there will be no more ceasefire with the New People’s Army (NPA), especially during the holidays, as has been the practice through the years.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the communist rebels, usually and separately, announce their respective unilateral ceasefires during the Christmas holidays.
The AFP itself urged the President not to come up with any ceasefire just two weeks before Christmas.
“There will be no ceasefire ever again under my term pagka-presidente (as president). For all intents and purposes, ‘yong ceasefire is dead. Wala na ‘yon (that ceasefire is dead. It’s gone),” the President said during a public address after a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases on Monday night.
The last time the Philippine government and the communist group declared a ceasefire during the holiday season was last year.
The respective armed units of the AFP and personnel of the NPA are normally prevented from initiating operations against each other, and only maintain a defensive posture while the ceasefire is in effect.
The President likewise stressed that there shall be no more revival of the peace negotiation between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF), the negotiating arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which have been stalled for a long time.
“I walked away from the talks because we cannot understand each other. Maybe we were talking in different dialects but I just simply cannot understand the way it was being carried by the other side, I would say the ceasefire is dead and the peace talks between the NDF, NPA, pati ’yong isali na rin natin legal front nila, pati kayong lahat (including their legal front, all of you), I am identifying you because I have seen the records. You are really communists,” the President added.
Duterte said that the communist rebels are actually out to share power and so he has to destroy them.
The President likewise pointed out that before his term ends, he would name all of those involved with the NDF.
“I’m trying to sort out what we will do to you because you are now criminals and I said I have pointed out we are not only tagging you… We are identifying you and we will identify you anytime you want, but there will be a time before my term ends, I will name all of you, kayong lahat sa NDF (all of you in the NDF),” he said.
Recently, the President had repeatedly accused militant organizations of being participants in a conspiracy led by the CPP to oust the government, citing in particular the Makabayan bloc.
Military spokesman Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said there is actually no point in having a truce with the communist rebels, who are now considered by the government as terrorists.
“We are thankful to the Commander-in-Chief for heeding the AFP’s recommendation not to declare ceasefire this holiday season and beyond,” he said in a statement yesterday.
Arevalo said the AFP did not recommend a holiday truce with the CPP-NPA “not because we do not want peace, but because what we advocate is a genuine and lasting peace that we cannot achieve through a peace pact with the NPA that is notoriously insincere and unworthy of public trust.”
He earlier explained that the CPP and its leaders, led by Jose Maria Sison, apparently no longer have effective control over the rebel fighters on the ground.
“Hence, peace talks with them in a national level is an exercise in futility,” he said when asked if the resumption of peace negotiations with the CPP-NPA was still possible.
Arevalo, however, added that the AFP is open to the idea of going for localized peace negotiations in the city or municipality level.
“Localized peace talks, on the other hand, will serve the purpose better. Issues and concerns that impact on the drivers of insurgency vary from one locality to another. And the best way to deal with and address these (drivers), is locally and through local chief executives,” he said.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who chairs the committee on national defense and security, said since there are ongoing localized peace talks, a ceasefire with the NPA rebels is better discussed at the local level, “probably on a case-to-case basis.”
“Rebels who may wish to lay down their arms but wouldn’t know how to go about it could find confidence to do so if a localized ceasefire is in force,” Lacson said.
Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Debold Sinas said yesterday that they will not issue an order for suspension of police operations during the holiday season.
“Our deployment to different areas identified as armed NPA hideouts will continue,” he said in Filipino during a press briefing at Camp Crame in Quezon City.
Sinas also instructed the police units to fortify their camps for possible attacks from the NPA.
The country’s top cop vowed to pursue the rebels, especially those with warrants of arrest for various crimes.
“If they are up in the mountains, our troops are there as well,” he said. – Michael Punongbayan, Emmanuel Tupas, Paolo Romero