Duterte lifts ceasefire with communist rebels; gov't forces on 'high alert'

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(File photo) President Rodrigo Duterte

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — President Rodrigo Duterte ordered on Saturday night the immediate lifting of the unilateral ceasefire with communist rebels, after the Communist Party of the Philippines failed to reciprocate the ceasefire by the 5 p.m. deadline set by the President.

"I am hereby ordering for the immediate lifting of the unilateral ceasefire that I ordered last July 25 against the communist rebels," the President said in a statement released through Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza.

In his statement, Duterte ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to withdraw operational guidelines on the ceasefire declaration.

"I am ordering all security forces to be on high alert and continue to discharge their normal functions and mandate to neutralize all threats to national security, protect the citizenry, enforce the laws and maintain peace in the land," the President added.

 

PNP Chief Ronald Dela Rosa said that the police "will follow the instructions of the Commander-in-Chief."

The AFP, in a statement released through Spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla, said "the NPA have missed a golden opportunity to manifest their commitment to the attainment of our citizen's much sought peace throughout the land."

CPP Founding Chairperson Jose Maria Sison said that the party was "slated to issue its reciprocal ceasefire order at 8 p.m. Manila time."

"It is not acceptable for one side in a civil war to be giving ultimatums especially when there are attempts to develop conditions for peace negotiations," Sison explained.

Nevertheless, he pointed out that the agreement between the two parties on the resumption of peace talks next month "still stands."

"Even without a ceasefire, peace negotiations are possible, just like before. The talks could try to establish the basis for unilateral ceasefire or for a mutual ceasefire agreement in a single document," he added.

Interview with CPP Founding Chairman Jose Maria Sison

CPP Founding Chairman Jose Maria Sison: Even without ceasefire, peace negotiations are still possible. The talks could try to establish the basis for unilateral ceasefire or for a mutual ceasefire agreement in a single document. www.cnn.ph

Posted by CNN Philippines on Saturday, July 30, 2016
 

Finger-pointing

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) blames a "two-faced" AFP over the New People's Army's (NPA) ambush on a group of the government's Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) on July 27 in Davao del Norte.

The attack left one CAFGU member dead and three others injured. It happened just three days after President Rodrigo Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire with the communist rebels during his first State of the Nation Address.

The CPP, through Spokesperson Aris Francisco, released a press statement on Friday night and said that the ambush was  "in adherence to the directive by the NPA National Operations Command for Red fighters to maintain on alert status and on active defense mode."

It admitted that its "Red fighters" conducted an ambush, but only because it "thwarted a military offensive" by the CAFGU unit.

The CPP accused government troops of violating the President's ceasefire orders and said that the CAFGU units took off from their detachment in Sitio Patil, Barangay Gupitan on July 26 for a "combat operation." It said that the troops "were clearly on combat operation and not engaged in 'civilian' activities."

After the President lifted the ceasefire, National Democratic Front Chairperson Luis Jalandoni accused government forces of not actually following the President's orders at all.

"Parang wala namang tunay na ceasefire kasi hindi sinusunod ng AFP at mga paramiltary iyong ceasefire ni President Duterte," he told CNN Philippines.

[Translation: It's like there was no true ceasefire at all because the AFP and the paramilitary did not follow President Duterte's ceasefire orders.]

Jalandoni reiterated that negotiating panels of the government and the CPP are still in communication, and that peace talks will resume as planned.

Government, NDF peace panels still in touch

NDF Chairperson Luis Jalandoni said that the CPP was supposed to release a ceasefire declaration at 8 p.m. He maintains that peace talks will resume in Oslo, Norway as planned next month.

Posted by CNN Philippines on Saturday, July 30, 2016
 

AFP slams accusations

The Armed Forces of the Philippines, through 10th Infantry Division Public Affairs Chief Cpt. Rhyan Batchar, said that the CPP's accusations were "malicious" and "unfounded."

He said the allegation that the CAFGU units were conducting military operations could not be true, as the division earlier issued a press release and posted on its Facebook page that the troops "were on their way back to their patrol base" in compliance with the President's unilateral ceasefire declaration.

Batchar also slammed the CPP's accusation that the CAFGU troops left their detachment for a "combat operation" on "July 26." He said that this was not possible: the troops were attacked on July 27, but the ambush site is a two to three-day walk from the patrol base in Sitio Patil.