President Rodrigo Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire with the communist rebels effective immediately in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 25, and called for the rebels to “respond accordingly.”
“To immediately stop violence on the ground, restore peace in the communities and provide enabling environment conducive to the resumption of the peace talks, I am now announcing a unilateral ceasefire with the CPP/NPA/NDF effective immediately. And call on our Filipinos in the National Democratic Front (NDF) and its forces to respond accordingly,” Duterte said in his speech.
Duterte even spoke one of the most memorable lines in his SONA after that announcement when he said, “If we cannot, as yet, love one another, then in God’s name, let us not hate each other too much.”
However, the Manila Bulletin reported that the New People’s Army attacked CAFGU personnel in Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte on Wednesday morning, July 27, two days after Duterte’s ceasefire announcement.
According to the 10th Infantry Division spokesperson Rhyan Batchar, the encounter killed one CAFGU personnel and wounded four others.
Batchar said that the NPAs ambushed the 72nd Infantry Battalion at Sitio Kamunoan, when they were returning to their camp at Sitio Patil in Gupitan from Sitio Kapatagan. He said that their battalion had to go back to camp as their response to the President’s call for a unilateral ceasefire.
Col. Ricardo Nepomuceno, commander of the 1003rd Infantry Brigade, called the NPA ambush deplorable. However, he said that the unit will still follow Duterte’s ceasefire and the suspension of offensive operations against the rebels.
Major Gen. Rafael Valencia, commander of the 10th Infantry Division, also condemned the attack, but like other soldiers, he said that his unit will also follow Duterte’s order.
“We shall continue to abide with the ceasefire, while we continue to secure the communities, vital installations and ongoing government flagship projects against any possible attack of the ALG,” he said.
CPP welcomed, activists praised Duterte’s ceasefire
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) released a statement welcoming Duterte’s ceasefire announcement and considered this move as a “positive boost” to the peace talks set for August 20 to 27. They also asked the release of all political prisoners and for the Armed Forces of the Philippines troops to withdraw from civilian communities. The statement also reiterated what Duterte said during his SONA, about seeking the “peace of the living, not the peace of the dead.”
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. said that they are hoping for the continuation of the peace process and like the CPP, suggested that the ceasefire should also include pulling out military troops in the lumad communities.
“Dapat nang i-demilitarize ng AFP yung mga komunidad ng mga lumad, hayaan nang makauwi ang mga lumad na nandidito na ngayon,” he said.
Reyes added that he hoped to put a stop to the arrest of government critics, especially in rural areas, and for political prisoners to be freed by August 20, when the formal peace talks between the NDF and the government resume.
Unilateral ceasefire disadvantageous to military, says Lacson
While the militants are happy with Duterte’s announcement, Senator Panfilo Lacson warned on Wednesday, July 27, that the military is at a disadvantage with Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire with the rebels.
“While it was well-intentioned, it could put the lives of our soldiers in danger if the CPP-NPA-NDF will not respond positively,” Lacson told the press via text message.
He further explained why he thinks such is the case when he said, “It seems to be the case, at least for the moment, since they (rebels) are now demanding for the release of political prisoners before reciprocating with their own ceasefire.”
Lacson’s reaction came after the CPP released their statement welcoming Duterte’s declaration of ceasefire.
The former Philippine National Police chief also noted the dangers the ceasefire posed to far away army detachments or even to bigger military troops in vulnerable camps.
“Since the commander in chief has declared a unilateral ceasefire, our soldiers and policemen cannot take pro-active action against them and will just wait to be attacked before they can react in self-defense. There are other dire situations that could easily put our soldiers and policemen at risk,” Lacson said.
“Needless to say, without proper and clear cut guidelines, this move by the President could be costly in terms of our armed forces security and safety,” Lacson concluded.
Before Lacson voiced out his opinion on the ceasefire, Duterte visited the soldiers in Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija on July 26 to explain his decision behind declaring a unilateral ceasefire, most of which was to maintain peace in the country.