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Peace group urges functional truce

/ 02:24 AM August 03, 2016

OZAMIZ CITY—A functional ceasefire mechanism is what the Duterte administration and communist rebels need in light of the July 27 ambush in Kapalong, Davao del Norte province, that slightly soured the atmosphere for upcoming peace talks between them, peace advocates have proposed.

Sulong (Advance) CARHRIHL (Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law) said in a statement that the Kapalong incident “highlights the need for a robust and mutually acceptable ceasefire mechanism” in order to prevent a similar one from occurring in the future. It urged both parties “to look into instruments that can independently investigate and prevent potential ceasefire violations.”

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The network of 59 organizations throughout the country was referring to the ambush staged by the New People’s Army (NPA), armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), on paramilitary troops, killing 1 and wounding 4.

The military and the NPA have different accounts of the attack. According to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the militiamen were returning to barracks when they were waylaid. But the NPA said they were maneuvering for an offensive, prompting the rebels to take a “defensive posture.”

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Two days before, President Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire at his State of the Nation Address in Congress. Seeing no reciprocal gesture from the CPP-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines on Saturday, he recalled the ceasefire order.

Mr. Duterte has vowed to preside over a formal end to the Moro and communist rebellions in the country before he steps down from office. In his pronouncements, he expressed desire to see a ceasefire in place between government troops and NPA guerrillas to create an atmosphere conducive to formal peace talks.

“We call on both parties to take into consideration the complexity of the situation on the ground and as soon as possible ask all armed units on both sides to stand down while talks continue,” Sulong CARHRIHL said.

The group has been advocating for a peaceful resolution to the nearly five-decade Maoist rebellion. It has been at the forefront of the demand for compliance with the  CARHRIHL, a major agreement between the government and rebels in previous talks.

It said the opportunity to “fine-tune the details of the ceasefire” would be the Aug. 20 talks in Oslo. “We maintain that peace talks are fundamental for deeper understanding and forging a way for peace in Mindanao and the whole country,” it said.

“We appeal to both parties to keep the lines of communication and spaces of dialogue open and always keep the spark for peace aflame,” Sulong CARHRIHL said.

On Sunday, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza gave assurance that the Oslo talks would be held as scheduled.

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In a separate statement, Neri Colmenares, former Bayan Muna representative, said the best way to go for both the government and communist rebels is to simultaneously declare a ceasefire on the day formal peace talks start in Norway on Aug. 20.

“The Filipino people want peace,” said Colmenares in the statement. He said while Mr. Duterte’s “eagerness” to declare a unilateral ceasefire was appreciated, “reports are mounting that the military in many areas did not comply with his order.”

This, he said, led to the bloodshed in Kapalong.

He said the withdrawal of the ceasefire declaration by the President and the bloodshed in Kapalong “taught us a lesson that a sudden declaration of a unilateral ceasefire is not effective.”

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TAGS: Ceasefire, Communist Party of the Philippines, CPP, Davao Del Norte, Kapalong, Military, New People’s Army, NPA, peace, Peace Talks
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