PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday urged members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) to leave their arms and come down to celebrate Christmas with their families.
In his speech during the 81st anniversary celebration of the Armed Forces of the Philippines at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, the President assured the rebels that they won’t be arrested when they come down from the mountains.
“Sa mga NPA or the Communist Party of the Philippines, although you did not declare any cessation of hostilities…I would like to invite everybody, leave your arms where they are ngayon [now]and you can come down sa siyudad [to the city]or wherever you live. You visit your family,” Duterte said.
“I would like you to come down and be with your family on Christmas day. I guarantee you na walang aresto, walang oppression, [I guarantee that there will be no arrest, no oppression, no everything. And if you meet a soldier of the Philippines, my soldier, shake hands. Or if you don’t want to, just don’t look at him],” he added.
Duterte said he wanted a ceasefire with all rebel groups for the holiday season.
“As agreed with some of the local religious leaders, I will honestly ask you sincerely for the ceasefire beginning December 23 up to 27, then in the New Year, in the 31st, up to January 2, 3,” he said.
He said he had extended the same invitation to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front.
But the invitation does not apply to criminals and terrorists group such as the Abu Sayaff, he said.
“Kayong mga terrorist and kidnappers, I don’t want to deal with you. I don’t want to see you,” the President said.
Duterte, Sison agree to pursue peace talks
Duterte and Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison agreed to pursue a peace agreement and continue a truce during the holidays, in a phone conversation on Tuesday, a Palace official said.
In a statement, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte and Sison had a “friendly” phone conversation on the ongoing peace negotiations between the government and the communist political arm, the National Democratic Front (NDF).
Sison, in a Facebook post, said he had a “friendly and productive” phone conversation with Duterte about advancing the peace talks. The phone call happened at 2 a.m. Manila time, Tuesday.
He said the unilateral ceasefire declarations of the two parties, made in August at the beginning of peace talks in Norway, “will stand during Christmas and New Year holidays.”
Both sides initially aimed to sign a bilateral ceasefire agreement in October, but communist rebels stalled the talks to seek the release of detained communist rebels.
Sison said the bilateral ceasefire agreement and the release of prisoners could be settled when the third round of talks resumes in January 2017.
“Bilateral ceasefire agreement and the amnesty and release of the political prisoners listed by the [NDF] can be discussed and agreed upon before, during, and even after the third round of formal talks in Rome from January 18 to 24,” he said.