29 July 2016

Palace strongly reiterates call for ceasefire
Government of the Philippines (GPH) Peace Panel Chair and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III expressed disappointment over the ambush of government troops by members of the New People’s Army (NPA), Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella announced during the press briefing on Friday.

The ambush took place in Sitio Pati, Barangay Gupitan, Davao del Norte, resulting in the death of a Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) member and the wounding of four others on July 27.

This came barely two days after President Rodrigo Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), National Democratic Front (NDF), and NPA during his first State of the Nation Address.

“I strongly reiterate the call of President Duterte to the CPP/NPA/NDF to reciprocate government’s ceasefire declaration in order to immediately stop violence on the ground, protect our communities from conflict, and provide an enabling environment for the resumption of formal peace negotiations,” Bello said in the statement read by Abella.

Bello called out NDF Peace Panel member Fidel Agcaoili regarding this tragic incident that resulted in CAFGU casualties. Agcaoili responded by saying he would look into the matter, adding that the NDF is committed to resume the peace negotiations

In the meantime, the government will wait for the results of the NDF’s verification. The Palace official said the President has given the NDF a “small window of opportunity,” though there was no timeline set.

As for the release of political prisoners and pullout of government troops in NPA-infested areas, the Presidential Spokesperson said, “if things work out according to plan, there will be a reciprocal response from the President, from the government.”
Abella added, “As soon as the trust is restored, things will proceed as agreed upon.” (PND)

President Duterte eyes inclusive government as peace talks loom
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Thursday said he will not agree on a coalition government with the communist rebels and would prefer an inclusive set up.

This developed as the government starts its peace negotiations with the communist groups.

In a situation briefing in Camp Nakar in Lucena City, the President said he wants to give the communist insurgents a chance to mend relations with the Philippine government.

“Tingnan natin. Let’s give them a chance. I would like to assure everybody here in this room that I will never, never agree to a coalition government,” he told top military officials during the briefing.

“I am very emphatic that I can have an inclusive government. I have taken them in. I can shake hands and talk about peace, an inclusive government,” PRRD said.

The communist insurgency has been ongoing in the country for several decades and the President said he decided to give peace a chance.

It is not solely his decision to restart the talks, the President said, adding that peace negotiators Jesus Dureza and Silvestre Bello III also agreed to begin the peace process.

President Duterte also reiterated his commitment to the Mindanao peace process, underscoring his stance to give the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) a chance.

He assured the military officials in Camp Nakar that he is loyal to the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), noting he rose from the ranks and has been in government for many years.

He asked the military to protect the people, ensure their welfare and work according to the mandate of the Filipino public.

As the AFP leadership asked for additional 20,000 soldiers, he promised to provide 10,000 new infantrymen by the end of the year with a full budget. (PND)

PRRD to Reds: I dealt with you in good faith
President Rodrigo Duterte has been upset over an apparent breach in the ceasefire agreement with the ambush and slaying of a government militiaman in Davao del Norte.

“I decided to declare a unilateral ceasefire because I know that the Philippines needs peace to survive in the coming generation. Actually, this is not for us, it is for our children,” he stressed.

President Duterte passionately spoke to members of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) during the wake of the slain CAFGU member held at the 60th Infantry Brigade headquarters in the town of Asuncion.

The President specifically addressed the rebels of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) who carried out the ambush on government militias in Kapalong, Davao del Norte on July 27, just two days after he made the unilateral ceasefire declaration during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Angered by the incident, PRRD strongly condemned the perpetrators, saying he is not in the business of lying when he declared a cessation of hostilities between the government and the ideological groups, particularly the CPP-NPA-NDF. “I dealt with you in good faith. You tell me if you are not ready to deal in the same manner.”

To prove he was dead serious, the President gave an ultimatum to the communist rebels that ends at 5 p.m. on July 30, to reciprocate and explain why there was an infraction of the unilateral ceasefire which he initiated. “If I do not hear a word from you then I will lift the order of ceasefire,” he warned.

PRRD also deplored the condition imposed by the rebel group to withdraw government troops and police forces in rebel-infested areas. “Tell me that I will order the Army and the police out of the mountain, that is out of the question. I said that from the start.”

President Duterte also reiterated the need for peace in Mindanao to pave the way for various economic and industrial developments, emphasizing that “we have to develop Mindanao; while there is a war raging, the people will go hungry.”

The cost of the insurgency not only translates to the loss of lives, it also puts a strain on the budget. For every soldier killed in action, the government spends P200,000; another P50,000 for personal suffering or minor injuries and P100,000 for serious injuries.

The President has always been consistent in his stand for peace and stressed he is serious in achieving this goal. “Deal with government in good faith. Let us not kid around. I have shown many years ago my sincerity and I’ve been selling this idea to you. We need to stop fighting.” (PND)