Senators support President Duterte’s revocation of ceasefire with Reds

MANILA – President Rodrigo R. Duterte found allies in the Senate in his decision to revoke the government unilateral ceasefire with the communist rebels after the ultimatum lapsed without reciprocation.

In his first State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) last July 25, President Duterte declared unilateral ceasefire and expected the National Democratic Front (NDF) “to respond accordingly.”

While waiting for the communist rebels to reciprocate to the truce offered by the Duterte government, a firefight took place on July 27 between the New People’s Army (NPA) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) civilian auxiliary, killing a militiaman and wounding three others.

Despite the ambush of the government militiamen, President Duterte still gave the Communist Party of the Philippines (CCP) and the NPA time to explain and to respond to the government ceasefire until 5 p.m. of July 30.

The ultimatum, however, lapsed without any word from the CPP-NPA-NDF, prompting President Duterte to lift the ceasefire last Saturday night.

Several minutes after the lifting of the ceasefire, CPP founder Jose Maria Sison was interviewed from The Netherlands by cable ANC television where he claimed they are planning to declare their own ceasefire at 8 p.m. on Saturday.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said the CPP-NPA-NDF’s announcement through media that they will also declare their own ceasefire is “still strategic and awaited decision.”

Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito agreed with the President’s decision, saying “he has every reason to call off the truce.”

”It was President Duterte who offered a handshake for peace and reconciliation. It was the Reds who rejected and in the process violated the truce offered by the government,” he added.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said President Duterte made the right decision when the popular leader did not extend the ultimatum.

”It would show that the President and this administration mean business. We are extending our hand of peace and friendship, yet we get nothing in return. I support the President’s decision,” Sotto said.

Senate minority member Antonio Trillanes IV also supported the President’s decision.

”I support President Duterte’s lifting of the ceasefire with the communists,” he said.

Senator Panfilo Lacson said the President made the right decision since the ultimatum was made six days after he declared the ceasefire and the NPA rebels even ambushed the government militiamen.

”The President already gave his word to set an ultimatum at 5 p.m. Because of the ambush, he said that if they (rebels) will not reciprocate, he will revoke the ceasefire. Siguro taliwas sa kanyang character na pag nagbitaw ng salita na pag sinabi niya, talagang alam nating gagawin niya,” Lacson said.

Lacson criticized the CPP-NPA-NDF for announcing in the media that they are supposed to declare ceasefire only three hours after the 5 p.m. ultimatum expired.

”The President declared the ceasefire 25 (of July) but they did not reciprocate. Now that it was lifted after the ultimatum lapsed, they said they would call a ceasefire at 8 p.m. Stupid is just a common phrase. It’s not literal (that they would declare ceasefire),” Lacson said.

Lacson said the CPP-NPA-NDF should declare its own ceasefire as a show of their goodwill and good faith.

Neophyte Senator Sherwin Gatchalian expressed optimism that the peace agreement between the government and the CPP-NPA-NDF will be achieved expeditiously “with President Digong’s showing of goodwill.”

”The NDF should also move expeditiously to achieve peace. President Digong is their only chance to achieve peace. He is the only President that sympathizers with their cause and movement,” Gatchalian said.

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara said President Duterte had little choice when he set the ultimatum after the attack of the government militiamen, “especially as the President has been making a tour of military camps.”

”Hopefully both sides can engage in confidence building measures in the run up to the peace talks,” Angara said.

Dureza has said President Duterte will continue to walk the extra mile to achieve peace with the communist rebels.

He added that he will make his corresponding recommendations to President Duterte during the scheduled Cabinet meeting on Monday. Jelly Musico/ PNA/