Communists declare ceasefire to start negotiations with PH gov’t

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FILE - In this Dec. 26, 2010, file photo, communist New People's Army militants march in unison past local residents and supporters during the celebration of the 42nd anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines on Mount Diwata in southern Philippines. On Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte reimposed an indefinite cease-fire after communist guerrillas declared their own truce as both sides set the stage for a resumption of talks aimed at ending one of Asia's longest-running rebellions. (AP Photo/Pat Roque, File)

By: Macon Araneta | FilAm Star Correspondent

The Communist Party of the Philippines–New People’s Army (CPP–NPA) on Sunday announced that they have declared a unilateral declaration of an interim ceasefire to further promote peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the government of the Republic of the Philippines and boost efforts to accelerate it.

The CPP–NPA said the Central Committee of the CPP and the National Operational Command of the NPA “hereby declare to all commands and units of the NPA and people’s militias an interim ceasefire in line with the recommendation of the Negotiating Panel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and in pursuit of the August 26 Joint Statement of the NDFP and government of the Republic of the Philippines on the resumption of formal peace negotiations.”

They said the interim ceasefire reciprocates the indefinite ceasefire issued by the President last August 21.

The unilateral declaration of interim ceasefire took effect August 28. It will remain in place during the course of peace negotiations until superseded by a ceasefire agreement to be issued jointly by the NDFP and the government within the next 60 days or until a notice of termination of this ceasefire declaration takes effect 10 days after receipt of said notice by the Government Negotiating Panel from the NDFP Negotiating Panel,” the statement read.

The CPP and NPA are encouraged by the positive outcome of the resumption of formal talks in Oslo, Norway last August 22 to 26, they said.

“The revolutionary forces in the Philippines look forward to vibrant talks in the course of the next few months to discuss (a) social and economic reforms, (b) political and constitutional reforms, and (c) end of hostilities and disposition of forces. The issuance of this interim ceasefire declaration is further encouraged by the prospective release of all political prisoners and remaining detained consultants of the NDFP through the issuance of an Amnesty Proclamation by the President,” added the rebel group.

These prisoners were arrested under the Arroyo and Aquino regimes in violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, it also said. During the interim ceasefire period, all NPA units and people’s militia shall cease and desist from carrying out offensive military campaigns and operations against the uniformed armed personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), it said.

Personnel of the AFP and PNP who have no serious liabilities other than their membership in their armed units shall not be subjected to arrest or punitive actions. They may be allowed individually to enter the territory of the people’s democratic government to make personal visits to relatives and friends, it also said. While all units of the NPA and the people’s militias shall be on defensive mode at both the strategic and tactical levels, they shall nonetheless maintain a high degree of militancy and vigilance against any hostile actions, provocations or movements of the enemy armed forces including encroachment on the territory of the people’s democratic government, surveillance and other offensive operations that are labelled as “peace and development”, “civil-military”, “peace and order”, “anti-drugs campaign”, “medical missions” or “law enforcement.”

Active-defense actions shall be undertaken only in the face of clear and imminent danger and actual armed attack by the enemy forces and only after exhausting counter-maneuvers to avoid armed encounters, the statement read.
All leading organs and branches of the CPP, commands and units of the NPA and people’s militias and revolutionary mass organizations shall monitor any hostile actions, provocations or movements carried out by the enemy armed forces that undermine the spirit of the ceasefire declarations.

These should be promptly reported to the concerned commands of the NPA and leadership of the CPP.
While ceasing offensive military operations, the NPA will continue to enforce policies and laws of the people’s democratic government, perform appropriate functions of governance, and mobilize the people and resources in territories under its authority, including: 1. maintaining peace and order including suppression of criminal groups such as drug traffickers and operators of the drug trade and large-scale gambling, private armies and private armed groups of warlords, local tyrants and vigilante groups, as well as spies.
2. enforcing local economic policies pertaining to land rent, usurious loans, wages and others.
3. enforcing policies for the protection of the environment and defense of the interests of national minorities, peasants and workers affected by large-scale mining, logging and plantation operations.
Furthermore, as a cultural, political and service organization, the NPA will continue to dispatch its forces to carry out educational campaigns especially on progress of peace negotiations, cultural activities, medical missions and production support campaigns.

Earlier, on August 20, the government announced it is re-imposing its unilateral ceasefire with the CPP–NPA ahead of the resumption of the peace talks with the communist group in Oslo, Norway.

In a press conference at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Pasay City, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza announced that the ceasefire started at 12:01 a.m. last August 21.

He said the duration of the ceasefire will last for as long as necessary to bring peace in the land and also in order to provide an enabling environment for the success of the peace negotiations that started in Oslo, Norway last August 22.

The government’s declaration came after the CPP–NPA announced a seven-day ceasefire on Friday night as a sign of goodwill for the formal peace talks last August 22 to 26.
The CCP-NPA declared the ceasefire following the release of 20 of the 22 detained NDF consultants including the couple Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, chairman and secretary-general, respectively, of the CPP-NPA.

The political prisoners were released to enable them to participate in the peace talks in Norway.

For its part, the NDF ordered its armed wing NPA to release two ranking police officers in its custody in Southern Mindanao.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto said the government should seize its ceasefire with communist guerillas as an opportunity to shift men and material in its fight to bring the resurgent ISIS-affiliated Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) to its knees,
“If the truce with the NPA will relieve the military of fighting a war in one front, then perhaps they can concentrate in finishing off the Abu Sayyaf,” Recto said.
“I think this is one dividend we would like to see—for the AFP to focus its undivided attention on Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG),” he said.

He said some units tied up in checking NPA activities could now be redeployed to areas where the Abu Sayyaf has grassroots support or within the reach of “Abu Sayyaf’s long arm of terror.”.

He said President Duterte should not pass on this inherited problem to his successor.

“These terrorists have been beheading people for 25 years now. If the President will defeat them, only then does he deserve the moniker ‘The Punisher,’” he said.

The Senator described the ASG as the “most violent criminal syndicate” in the country today, saying that its “barbarity” has already made it among Asia’s most brutal groups.
“This gives us the regional obligation to stamp them out and wipe clean this blot on our national image,” Recto said.

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