On simultaneous unilateral ceasefire declarations for peace talks

Central Committee, Communist Party of the Philippines

1. The unilateral declaration of ceasefire by GRP President Duterte last July 25 was welcomed by the CPP as a measure to promote the scheduled NDFP-GRP peace negotiations. It is too bad that he has withdrawn such an order. We trust, however, that this will not affect preparations for formal resumption of peace negotiations scheduled for August 20-27 in Oslo, Norway, nor will it preclude the GRP President from reissuing such a declaration simultaneously with a similar unilateral declaration by the CPP and NPA on August 20.

We continue to look forward to work with the GRP President in peace negotiations. With his declared intent of resolving the issues at the root of the armed conflict, GRP President Duterte will not want the fascist zealots of the US counter-insurgency doctrine to succeed in derailing peace negotiations and seeing him fail to forge a lasting peace agreement with the NDFP.

2. When GRP President Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire, the CPP andNPA immediately reciprocated with an order for all units of the NPA to go on active defense mode, a state just one notch below a ceasefire, as it awaited the CPP Central Committee to evaluate the situation and issue appropriate orders. By going on active defense, the NPA sought to help promote an atmosphere favorable to peace talks without sacrificing the safety of the NPA and the peasant masses.

Since July 25, the CPP Central Committee had been refining its draft interim ceasefire declaration as a way of further promoting the NDFP-GRP peace negotiations and reciprocating the July 25 ceasefire declaration by GRP President Duterte.

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.

On Thursday, speaking before soldiers at Lucena, Quezon, the GRP President would threaten to withdraw his ceasefire declaration if he did not receive an explanation of the ambush by that afternoon.

He would not take back his ultimatum even after an accounting was made by the responsible NPA command on Friday afternoon where it was exposed how the AFP ground troops were carrying out offensive maneuvers in non-compliance with the GRP’s unilateral ceasefire.

On Saturday, he will turn to demand the CPP to issue a reciprocal unilateral ceasefire declaration by the end of the day under threat of withdrawing his own order.

It was quite capricious for the GRP President to have imposed such ultimatums of a few hours or several days for the CPP to act in accordance with his whims. It was quite disconcerting that the GRP President would impose such an inflexible ultimatum on the CPP. Despite his anti-crime bravado, it would seem he has shown the drug lords and protectors of criminal syndicates more flexibility and accommodation.

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.

3. Over the course of five days that the Duterte ceasefire declaration was in effect, there was zero compliance on the part of the AFP. Its 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.

Palparan-trained AFP Chief Gen. Ricardo Visaya has zero sincerity in his avowed support for peace talks and for the ceasefire declaration. In fact, in his “suspension of offensive military operations”, he ordered AFP combat troops to continue with so-called “civil-military” operations under Oplan Bayanihan, a euphemism for combat, psywar, surveillance and intelligence operations targeting civilian communities.

Not one AFP encampment in civilian communities was taken down. Armed combat troops of the AFP stationed in and around the scores of Lumad sitios did not move an inch. Thousands of Lumad people remain in evacuation centers unable to safely return home.

Combat units of the AFP have remained active in civilian communities throughout the country, from Isabela to Sorsogon, Northern Samar to Surigao del Norte, to Compostela and even in Duterte’s home province of Davao del Norte where AFP combat troops continue to wage armed offensives. The NPA will soon issue a report on the matter.

4. On Wednesday morning, a unit of the NPA launched an ambush against operating troops and auxilliary forces of the 72nd Infantry Battalion in Kapalong, Davao del Norte. GRP President Duterte raised protests over the ambush and demanded an explanation for what he claimed to be a violation of, in fact, a non-existent truce (a mutually signed ceasefire agreement as opposed to a unilateral ceasefire declaration).

In its report, the NPA unit pointed to how they were provoked to carry out the ambush as part of its active defense in the face of an imminent armed encounter with the operating armed troops and auxilliary forces of the 72nd IB of the AFP.

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 p aramilitary forces launched themselves that morning and was about to make armed contact with the NPA unit.

The local NPA unit clearly saw that the AFP troops were engaged in a combat operation. NPA Red fighters immediately disengaged after disabling the enemy unit from carrying out further offensive action.

This shows that the concerned NPA unit was in full regard of GRP President Duterte’s ceasefire declaration and was fully aware and complied with orders of the NPA national command to stay on active defense.

5. The CPP leadership has since June, prepared a draft for a unilateral ceasefire in anticipation of peace talks with the Duterte regime. It has long expressed willingness to engage in a ceasefire for as long as there are peace negotiations.

It was a different situation, however, when GRP President Duterte unilaterally declared a ceasefire even before it could fulfill its promises to release NDFP consultants and political prisoners. The CPP took the more prudent path of moving slowly in a deliberate effort to observe the situation at the ground even as it ordered the NPA to stay on active defense.

The CPP, however, will not allow itself to be browbeaten to order the NPA to go on a ceasefire while operating troops of the AFP showed no plans on letting up in their search-and-destroy operations and frenzied offensives that terrorize civilian communities.

To say the least, continuing offensives of the AFP prevented the CPP from declaring an interim ceasefire sooner.

6. At this point, the CPP reiterates its full support for the resumption of NDFP-GRP peace negotiations as a means of discussing the roots of the armed conflict. 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.

To further support peace negotiations, 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.

As earlier planned, the negotiating panels of the NDFP and GRP can thereafter exchange these declarations in order to discuss points for cooperation and coordination and determine ways of preventing armed skirmishes, misunderstandings and miscommunications during the course of the peace talks.