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Duterte declares truce with Reds
December 21st, 2017 | 11:01 AM | 381 views
For a stress-free Christmas, President Duterte has decided to declare a 10-day unilateral ceasefire with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) from December 24, 2017 to January 2, 2018 to allow Filipinos to celebrate the holidays without apprehension.
The President made the announcement during a Christmas Party with his Cabinet members held at the Malago clubhouse in Malacañang Tuesday night.
Although adamant, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the military will abide by the directive of the President during the 10-day unilateral ceasefire with the Reds.
In a press briefing at Camp Aguinaldo, Lorenzana said he was surprised by the decision of the President to declare a 10-day suspension of military operations (SOMO).
“I was actually adamant and was, ayaw ko sanang mag-ano (I don’t want to)… I did not recommend for the cessation of military operations against the CPP-NPA but if the President declared so then we are going to implement and abide by the directive of the President,” he added.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, the 10-day SOMO aims to give the public peace of mind while celebrating the Yuletide Season.
“This unilateral ceasefire would lessen the apprehension of the public this Christmas season. We expect that the CPP-NPA-NDFP would do a similar gesture of goodwill,”Roque said.
“Christmas holds a special place in the hearts of our countrymen. In the observance of this occasion, we hope that all Filipinos would stand together as one nation and aspire for peace in our beloved Philippines,” he added.
Roque also said that as seconded by the Department of National Defense (DND), the SOMO only pertains to combat operations.
But in an ambush interview at the 82nd anniversary celebration of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Camp Aguinaldo, Duterte was not clear whether he actually declared a truce with the Reds this Christmas or not.
He said he would declare a ceasefire so the people can spend the holidays with less stress and left it to the communist rebels if they would do the same.
“If ever I will declare a ceasefire it will be for the benefit of the people. So that they will spend Christmas [with] less strain, less pressure, and they do not expect something like it purposely – battle namaghahanapng away (really looking for a fight). Kung ayawnila, ‘di ‘wag (If they don’t want to, then fine),”Duterte said.
“Wala.Wala ako (No, I don’t) – I’m doing it just for the Filipino,” the President responded when asked if there is a SOMO for Christmas this year.
Roque, in a text message, reiterated that combat operations are suspended and that AFP spokesman Col. EdgardArevalo would explain further during the regular Thursday briefing in Malacañang.
Earlier, Duterte announced that he would not declare SOMO after the collapse of the peace talks with the communist rebels.
But on Tuesday night, the President said that if he were to declare a ceasefire, it would be for the Filipino people and not for the communist rebels.
“If I declare a ceasefire, it is not addressed to the NPAs. Rather, I would want to celebrate Christmas with the rest of humankind or Filipinos, nawalang stress (sans the stress), Duterte said.
“Baka sabihin nila walang ceasefire ngayon baka magkaputukan (People might think there might be an encounter) then you put a lot of strain on the people. I will think about it. That would be my primary consideration. I do not declare ceasefires anymore with anybody,” he added.
“‘Yung (The) ceasefire is a unilateral action of government to refrain from attacking. A lot of people are going around, even at night, enjoying Christmas day or whatever. Magsisimba (going to churches). I do not want to add more strain to what people are now suffering,” he continued.
On Sunday, Roque said: “Declaring a SOMO now is not to the nation’s best interest as it would only expose our defenders to enemy attacks and embolden them to commit more atrocities, especially during their anniversary,” he added.
“However, we do not discount possibilities that there may be circumstances that may arise for government to reconsider its present position,” he continued.
That Sunday, Roque said there was still a chance that Duterte might change his mind.
Chief Peace Negotiator and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III also said that a Christmas truce with the Reds was still possible.
The suspension of offensive military operations has been a customary move by both sides since the launch of formal talks in the late 1980s.
The 48-year-old conflict is one of Asia’s longest-running insurgencies and has claimed 30,000 lives by the government’s count.
But Duterte cancelled peace talks last month and formally designated the local communists as “terrorist organizations.”
Duterte has also accused the communists of plotting with his political rivals to destabilize his rule.
He has since ordered the arrest of more than a dozen rebel leaders freed last year, and has threatened to shut down mining companies that yield to insurgents’ demands for money.(With a report from AFP)
courtesy of MANILA BULLETIN
by Argyll Cyrus Geducos and Francis Wakefield
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