PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Friday ordered the military to prepare for war as he announced the lifting of the government’s unilateral ceasefire with communist rebels.
The announcement came two days after the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), announced that it would end its own truce on February 10, and amid claims from both sides of ceasefire violations.
In remarks in North Cotabato, Duterte said he had informed Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año of his decision to end the ceasefire with the rebel group after a series of clashes in the past weeks.
“Suddenly, the other day, they said, they’re breaking off and they’re abandoning their unilateral ceasefire. I followed…Last night, I decided, I called General Año, and I said, I am lifting the ceasefire tonight. No more ceasefire,” the President said.
Duterte said a “peaceful generation” could not be achieved with the lifting of the unilateral ceasefire.
“I guess that peace with the communists cannot be realized during our generation many years from now. I don’t want killings, but if my soldiers are dying, let’s resume war, anytime,” the President said.
“If they say, on February 10, there will be an ambush in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, sorry. So I would really like to express my sadness, we cannot have a peaceful generation. There will always be a fight,” he added.
On Wednesday, the NPA accused the military of abuses, such as encroaching upon civilian facilities and rebel-held areas. They are also demanding the release of over 400 detained comrades.
Duterte reiterated that he tried his best to reconcile with the communists, but said the NPA had so many “unreasonable demands.”
“I tried my best to initiate, went out of my way to release as many leaders, who are there in Oslo (Norway) for peace talks. There is this demand to release 400 [detained rebels]. It’s like I have granted amnesty,” he said.
“I do not own the Republic of the Philippines. Though I’m the number one, I do not decide alone. I consult people, particularly, the military and police,” the President added.
Despite the end of the ceasefire, the CPP and NPA have assured that they would still support the peace process, which was re-started in August 2016 or three years after they were terminated by the previous Aquino administration.
But the President expressed doubt that firefights between government forces and the communist rebels would end soon.
“I tried my best, but I guess it wasn’t good enough. There will be no peace in this land vis-a-vis with the Communist Party. Let’s resume war, take your position and be alert. And to the nation, I said I really tried. But the demands are just too huge that it is impossible to meet or work out a compromise,” Duterte said.
“I’ve lost so many soldiers in just 48 hours, I think to continue with the ceasefire will not produce anything. Therefore I am asking the soldiers go back to your camps, clean your rifles and get ready to fight,” he added.
AFP: 6 dead in NPA attacks
The AFP on Friday welcomed the President’s decision to lift the ceasefire with the communists.
“We shall abide by the President’s order of ending the unilateral ceasefire. It is unfortunate that the gains of the last six months would come to a halt because the CPP-NPA again resorted to the use of violence and chose arms to advance their interests,” Año, the AFP chief, said in a statement.
“The last four days were disdainful and disturbing. While [chief communist negotiator]Fidel Agcaoili was assuring the public through media that [the National Democratic Front], CPP and NPA will continue the unilateral ceasefire, the CPP-NPA were attacking our soldiers who were doing community support and development work,” he added.
Año said the attacks resulted in the deaths of 2nd Lt. Miguel Victor Alejo and five other soldiers, as well as the abduction of three others.
“We welcome the pronouncement of the President because the AFP has to do its mandate of protecting the people, securing the community and taking care of our own soldiers too. We will go after the NPA to prevent them from conducting atrocities and criminal activities against the public,” the AFP chief said.