President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the military to implement a unilateral ceasefire with the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
Duterte said it is ironic and tragic to enter into peace talks and yet “load our guns, fix our sights and pull the trigger.”
“All of us want peace. Not the peace of the dead but the peace of the living,” he said.
Duterte talked about casualties of encounters between the military and communists. The president said that both sides praise the heroism of their fighters who die in clashes, but all he could see are the grieving widows and the orphans.
“[I] feel their pain and grief and no amount of cash assistance or the number of medals can compensate the loss of the human life.”
Duterte called for an end to skirmishes and ambushes of the NPA which he said is getting bloodier by the day. He declared a truce to immediately stop violence on the ground, restore peace in communities and create an environment conducive to the resumption of peace talks.
The ceasefire was supposed to be discussed in August when negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the CPP’s poitical arm, resumes. The talks will happen in Norway with the Norwegian government serving as the third-party facilitator.
Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza said the resumption of talks is a milestone after it was halted in 2013 due to disagreements on the freeing of jailed rebels.
The NDFP argued jailed rebels should be released as they are covered by the 1995 Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, which prohibits the arrest and detention of peace consultants.
The Duterte administration, however, said it would release imprisoned rebels who would participate in the negotiations.