Palace warns Reds: Don’t violate ceasefire again
Malacañang on Sunday warned communist rebels not to violate the holiday truce again and desist from attacking government troops while the ceasefire is in effect until Jan. 7, 2020.
“They should not do it again,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in response to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines’ (NDFP) explanation that last week’s atrocities did not violate the 16-day truce.
“Even so, whatever the reason is, the President decided to let it slide … The President decided to let them be,” Panelo said when asked if Mr. Duterte accepted the NDFP’s explanation.
A peace advocacy group has appealed both to the Duterte administration and to the communist rebels to honor the ceasefire that the two parties had signed amid reports of attacks allegedly carried out by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.
“I am calling on both parties, especially the government, to remain calm and sober as the truce is in effect,” said Bishop Felixberto Calang, leader of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) and convenor of the group Sowing the Seeds of Peace in Mindanao.
Calang made the statement after reports of the clash in Barangay Baay, Labo, Camarines Norte and Barangay Singon, Tubungan, Iloilo province on Dec. 23, the first day of the ceasefire, threatened to dim the prospect of the resumption of talks between the government and the NDFP.
An Army soldier was killed and six others were wounded in the encounter in Camarines Norte, while two police officers were injured in the Iloilo attack.
Panelo made the remarks after NDFP peace panel chair Fidel Agcaoili insisted that the NPA did not violate the ceasefire in the reported encounters.
Agcaoili said the rebels only engaged in “defensive actions” in response to the sustained operations by the military and police.
A few days before Christmas, the President declared cessation of hostilities between government troops and communist rebels to foster an environment conducive to resuming the peace talks.
The government terminated the formal peace negotiations in late 2017, as it accused the communist rebels of insincerity because of their continued attacks on government troops.
Panelo said last week’s atrocities against government troops would not affect the possibility of resuming peace negotiations with the Reds.
Calang’s group was among the first to welcome the 15-day ceasefire “with much jubilation” and hope that it would revive the stalled talks between the government and the NDFP.
The bishop also called on the two parties to make use of existing mechanisms to lodge their complaints on the alleged ceasefire violations.
“There is a joint monitoring committee to investigate violations,” Calang said.
The bishop said he was hoping the incidents would not hinder the resumption of the peace talks.
He said that as Christians, his group considered the continuation of the negotiations as a “time to deepen our faith in Jesus as the Prince of Peace. The liberation of God’s people from oppression and injustice was at the core of Jesus’ ministry for peace.”
The group Balay Mindanaw also expressed the same optimism.
“We hope that this becomes an irreversible step toward the [resolution] of the decades-old armed conflict as the two parties resume their work in addressing the roots of the conflict,” said Charlito Manlupig, Balay Mindanaw.
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