PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte’s failure to keep his promise to free detained rebels was the reason for the communist New Peoples Army’s (NPA) decision to lift its ceasefire with the Philippine government, a rebel spokesman said.
“Ka Ferdie” of the rebels’ Front 73 Main Regional Guerilla Unit based in South Cotabato denied that the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the NPA lacked sincerity in the peace negotiations.
“The CPP-NPA withdrew our stand to go on with the unilateral ceasefire because we assumed that President Duterte is uncertain over his commitment to release the political prisoners while holding the peace negotiations,” Ka Ferdie said in a phone interview, speaking in Filipino.
Duterte lifted the government’s own ceasefire declaration on Friday and vowed not to give in to the rebels’ demand without a bilateral ceasefire deal.
Representative Carlos Zarate of the militant Bayan Muna partylist said Saturday both parties should expedite talks and address the roots of armed conflict.
In a statement, Zarate, vice chairman of the House Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, called on both parties to craft an agreement on socioeconomic reforms, which he described as “the most crucial part” of the peace process.
“The agreed acceleration of the process, by also tackling the other substantive agenda on political and constitutional reforms and the end of hostilities and disposition of forces, can continue even in the absence of a ceasefire,” Zarate said.
The lawmaker recalled the 12 major agreements forged by both parties during the term of former president Fidel Ramos, which includes the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.
Zarate also called on the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the CPP’s armed wing, to proceed with scheduled talks on February 22 in the Netherlands.
“[This is] to discuss the issue of ceasefire and the release of political detainees, particularly the sickly and the elderly,” the lawmaker said.
“The absence of a ceasefire should not be taken as signal the agents of the state for a renewed violation of human rights,” he added.
Siquijor Rep. Ramon Rocamora also called for the continuation of peace talks between the two parties.
Rocamora said the absence of peace “has been a deterrent to getting long-term investments and creating gainful employment which further feeds into great poverty.”
“Let’s give peace a chance, put in place confidence re-building measures and think deeply about acceptable negotiating points that can be brought to the table,” Rocamora said in a statement.
On Friday, Duterte lifted the government’s unilateral ceasefire with rebels, two days after the announcement of the NPA that it would terminate its own truce on February 10.
Duterte ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines to prepare for a fight with rebels.
Duterte first declared the unilateral ceasefire with the communist rebels on July 25, 2016, during his first State of the Nation Address.
with LLANESCA T. PANTI