The government and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) have declared a ceasefire just days before the start of peace talks in Oslo, Norway.
The CPP Central Committee and the National Operational Command of the New People’s Army (NPA) announced a unilateral ceasefire Friday night, hours after the release of top CPP officials Benito Tiamzon and his wife Wilma.
The CPP directed its guerilla units to “cease and desist” from conducting tactical offensives against the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.
In a statement, the CPP said the ceasefire will take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday and will last until 11:59 p.m. on August 27. Formal talks between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the government are scheduled from August 22 to 26.
“This ceasefire declaration is encouraged by the GRP’s facilitation of the release of nearly all NDFP consultants who are set to participate in peace negotiations in the course of the next several months,” the CPP said.
The CPP also reiterated its “deep appreciation of the determined efforts of President Duterte to push forward and accelerate the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations as a means of addressing the roots of the civil war in the Philippines.”
In return, Duterte on Saturday restored the unilateral ceasefire he declared earlier.
In a press conference at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza announced that the truce, to take effect midnight Sunday, will last “for as long as necessary to bring peace in the land.”
Dureza said the ceasefire will “provide an enabling environment for the success of the peace negotiations” that will be held in Oslo, Norway.
Duterte first declared a ceasefire with the communist group during his first State of the Nation Address on July 25, but he revoked it five days later because of the failure of the rebels to declare their own truce.
“Today, the President restores the effects of that ceasefire declaration precisely at this strategic time when we are all at the onset of the formal resumption of peace talks that had previously stalled for the last four years. The operational guidelines of the said ceasefire declaration for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police and other security units of the government are also hereby restored,” Dureza said.
“Our citizens deserve no less. They wish to live peaceful lives bereft of the costs and tragic consequences of conflict and violence. The enabling environment brought about by this ‘silencing of the guns’ will hopefully go a long way in bringing about an expeditious and early resolution to our differences and aspirations that have long divided us as a people,” he added.
Dureza, head of the government’s delegation in the peace talks with communist rebels, will leave for Oslo today.
He said the President worked for the unprecedented release from detention of 20 prisoners who are needed in the talks.
“As we speak, there is continuing effort to make available in the Oslo peace talks resumption as many of them as possible. I say again: the Duterte government will walk the extra mile for peace,” he added.
On Friday, Rubi Del Mundo, a rebel spokesman, said the NDF ordered the release of prisoners of war Chief Inspector Arnold S. Ongachen and Police Officer 1 Michael B. Grande. Both policemen were captured by the New People’s Army rebels in separate operations.
He said the captives will be handed over to the government as soon as Manila suspends military and police operations against rebel forces. He said the release of the two policemen is a gesture of goodwill for the formal resumption of the peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway.
“The People’s Democratic Government’s judicial proceedings and investigations into POW Ongachen and POW Grande’s possible war crimes and violation of people’s rights have been effectively suspended in deference to appeals of their families and peace advocates. POW Ongachen and POW Grande have apologized for their violations against the people,” Del Mundo said.
He said the government should also immediately release all the remaining 540 political prisoners languishing in various jails across the country.
“The NDFP expects the immediate release of the remaining 540 political prisoners in compliance of the Duterte government to the Comprehensive Agreement for Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and the Joint Agreement for Security and Immunity Guarantees. The success of the talks en route to a viable peace accord between the two governments in the Philippines rests in the main on GPH’s—especially the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police and their paramilitaries’—adherence to previous agreements and the serious deliberation of the roots of the civil war. In these objectives, the NDFP and the entire revolutionary movement have been and continue to be firmly resolute,” Del Mundo said.