FOUR days after he declared a unilateral government ceasefire in the war against the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front’s New People’s Army, President Rody Duterte had to issue an ultimatum to the CPP-NDF NPA to reciprocate. He had to do it, or he could face a military mutiny after NPAs ambushed government troops in Davao del Norte, killing a member of the AFP-trained and -operated Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) and wounding four others.
The President announced his ultimatum to the communist rebels on Friday while speaking at the wake of the slain CAFGU member in Capalong, Davao del Norte.
The deadline he gave the CPP-NDF-NPA leadership to reciprocate his peaceable posture—by ordering their NPA soldiers to obey a ceasefire in their war against the government—is at 5 p.m. today, July 30.
He had to give the ultimatum to the communist rebels or possibly face the risk of a military mutiny. For immediately after the President’s ceasefire declaration on Monday, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Ricardo Visaya declared the suspension of military operations (SOMO) against the communist rebels. The Philippine National Police top command also issued a SOMO order to all units nationwide.
The AFP chief on Monday ordered all commanders of unified commands, major services, and AFP-wide service support units to observe the SOMO against the communist rebels. The PNP brass’ SOMO also in effect told all police forces in the archipelago to stop operations against NPAs.
The AFP SOMO directive issued by Visaya ordered the cessation of all military offensives against the CPP, NDF and the NPA, “including the conduct of combat maneuvers that may be construed as provocative acts that may be deemed [to be in violation]of the SOMO.”
But while the CPP leaders welcomed Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire order, they have not issued until now (at the time of this writing on the afternoon of Friday) any order to the field, where NPA’s underground units are supposed to be active in every province in our country, to observe a ceasefire.
According to the AFP command, “the government military is treating the ceasefire and peace talks with communist rebels with ‘guarded optimism’ while hoping that the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the Communists will continue without constraints.” And, as of Thursday, July 28, the AFP was still “hopeful that the Communist Party of the Philippines, its political arm the National Democratic Front (NDF) and its armed wing New People’s Army (NPA) have the same aspiration that the government has for lasting peace to be attained for the sake of the Filipino people.”
Apparently, the CAFGU unit that NPAs ambushed in Davao del Norte was more optimistic than guarded.
But ambushes of government troops by NPAs during a ceasefire have happened several times before.
As members of the government peace panels, including those under Duterte, have observed: Maybe the communists at the highest levels of Jose Maria Sison and the designated CPP-NDF negotiators really want to end the war with the Philippine government, on their terms of course. But many of the NPA bands on the ground don’t want to give up their power to terrorize their own communities and raid army and police units every now and then.
The truth is that members of the CPP-NDF hierarchy don’t all have the respect of every single soldier or band of NPA soldiers. Many of whom are not ideologically committed to the Communist Party at all.