After President Duterte ordered last night the lifting of the government's unilateral ceasefire, the leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/ National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF) announced through the media its belated but still strategic and awaited decision to also declare its own unilateral ceasefire.
Indeed, this is a welcome development. It affirms the value of the President's firm actions for peace. This is what we have been waiting for.
Let me state the chronological facts.
On 25 July during the State of the Nation Address (SONA), the President declared a unilateral ceasefire with the CPP/NPA/NDF “in order to stop violence on the ground, safeguard the citizenry, and provide an enabling environment for the resumption of peace negotiation.”
Consistent with previous unilateral ceasefires, like during Christmas holidays, there was high expectation that the National Democratic Front would forthwith and immediately announce also its own as positive response to the President's declaration. This was precisely the reason for the President's statement in the SONA that he was calling on and expecting the NDF “to respond accordingly”.
The following day, July 26, the NDF, instead of issuing its expected declaration said they could not do so as yet as they were waiting for the precise written orders on the ceasefire. In immediate response, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and subsequently the Philippine National Police issued their respective policy guidance in writing on how they would carry on with a ceasefire in place. Copies thereof were sent immediately to the NDF in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Yet, in spite of this, there was still no declaration from them.
The following day, July 27, a fire fight happened between the NPAs and elements of the AFP civilian auxiliary in Davao del Norte resulting to the death of a civilian auxiliary force member and the wounding of 3 others. The President then called on the CPP/NPA/NDF again to explain why this happened in the midst of his ceasefire declaration.
He gave the NDF the end of the following day, July 28, to do so. Still the expected declaration was not issued.
The following day, July 29, during the President's visit in a military camp in Asuncion, Davao del Norte, he lamented the unnecessary loss of lives and publicly asked again the NDF to issue its own declaration of unilateral ceasefire to avoid similar incidents to happen. Although already obviously disappointed and exasperated, he announced 5 o'clock the following day, July 30, as a final deadline otherwise he would lift the government's ceasefire in order to further secure the civilians and secure the peace.
By 5 o'clock in the afternoon of July 30, the final deadline the President announced lapsed and still there was no declaration from the NDF.
But the President still patiently waited.
In the meantime, disturbing messages from the ranks of the NPA were monitored. Its Southern Mindanao Regional Command claimed the government's unilateral ceasefire was “non-existent” as it also blamed the AFP as “sabotaging” the ceasefire. Its leadership also belittled the efforts of the President, saying that he could not dictate on the revolutionaries.
By 7pm, knowing that an unanswered ceasefire declaration was not for the best interest of the nation, the President then authorized the release of a statement declaring the lifting of the ceasefire.
However, after an hour thereafter, past the deadline and evidently informed of the President's announced position, the NDF publicly stated in the media that it was already ready to issue its own corresponding ceasefire declaration.
From the above, it is very clear that the President walked the extra mile for peace. And no doubt, he will still continue to do so at any given opportunity.
I will make my corresponding recommendations to the President and the whole Cabinet tomorrow Monday, August 1, during the scheduled Cabinet meeting in the afternoon.