Hopes for peace talks still high; CPP to declare unilateral ceasefire on Aug. 20

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Hopes that formal peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) will push through remain high among both sides, as the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has stated that it will issue a unilateral ceasefire order on the first day of the scheduled talks.

“The CPP is willing to issue a unilateral ceasefire declaration separately but simultaneously with the Duterte government on August 20. The time-frame can be determined through negotiations,” said the communist party in a statement released today by the Central Committee.

It said that the peace talks was the venue to “discuss points for cooperation and coordination and determine ways of preventing armed skirmishes, misunderstandings and miscommunications.”

‘Capricious’ ultimatum

The CPP said that it was “capricious” for Duterte to have imposed a 24-hour ultimatum for the reciprocal ceasefire.

“Through the Information Bureau, an announcement was made at past 4 p.m. yesterday that a reciprocal ceasefire declaration was set be issued by the CPP at around 8 p.m. last night. That Malacañang’s announcement withdrawing the ceasefire declaration was made at around 7:30 p.m. lacks circumspect to say the least,” the CPP said.

“It is advisable for the GRP President to exercise a little more prudence and display more measured temperament as a way of appreciating the situation from a broader historical perspective in order to avoid such impulsive acts as imposing ultimatums by the hour on a conflict that has spanned nearly fifty years,” it added.

In a separate statement, Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza said that “By 7 p.m., knowing that an unanswered ceasefire declaration was not for the best interest of the nation, the President then authorized the release of a statement declaring the lifting of the ceasefire.”

Dureza also said that NDFP leaders’ statement last night that the CPP was ready to declare its own unilateral ceasefire was a “welcome development.” He said that he will make recommendations to President Duterte and the cabinet tomorrow morning.

“It is very clear that the President walked the extra mile for peace. And no doubt, he will still continue to do so at any given opportunity,” he said.

‘Continuing’ AFP offensives

Meanwhile, the CPP also said that the delay in the issuance of an interim ceasefire order was due to “continuing offensives of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines),” as they noted “zero compliance” on the part of the military.

“Its (AFP) public expression of support for the ceasefire declaration was not reflected on the ground. Not a single AFP command ordered its troops withdrawn back to their barracks,” said the CPP.

The communist party further clarified the NPA ambush in Davao del Norte, where a militiaman was killed. “The ambush was carried out as a last resort to preserve the forces of the NPA in the face of an impending armed encounter with the forces of the 72nd IB. The NPA unit carried out counter-maneuvers after armed operating troops of the AFP and its paramilitary forces launched themselves that morning and was about to make armed contact with the NPA unit,” it said.

This was allegedly in line with the CPP’s order of “active defense mode” for the NPA.

The communist party leadership nevertheless assured “its full support for the resumption of NDFP-GRP peace negotiations as a means of discussing the roots of the armed conflict.”

It said that it has prepared a draft for a unilateral ceasefire since June, but that it “took the more prudent path of moving slowly in a deliberate effort to observe the situation at the ground.”

It also said that it expects the Duterte government to “make good its promise to release all peace consultants of NDFP as well as all political prisoners arrested and detained under the Arroyo and Aquino regimes.”

Furthermore, the CPP cautioned Duterte against “fascist zealots of the US counter-insurgency doctrine” who want to see him fail in forging “a lasting peace agreement” with the NDFP.

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