Mindanao Times

Ceasefire pushed

• GRP, NDF peace panels sign deal for 15-day truce


THE GOVERNMENT and National Democratic Front (NDF) peace panels signed an agreement on Saturday in Utrecht to recommend the declaratio­n of ceasefire from midnight of Dec. 23, 2019 to 12:59 p.m. on Jan. 7, 2020.

According to the three-page Joint Statement signed in Utrecht on Dec. 21, the government and NDF “hereby announce that they have agreed to recommend to their respective Principals the issuance of a unilateral and reciprocal nationwide ceasefire effective form 00 0H of 23 December 2019 to 2359 H of 07 January 2020.”

The parties agreed to “separately issue the correspond­ing ceasefire orders.”

During the ceasefire period, “the respective armed units and personnel of the

Parties shall cease and desist from carrying out offensive military operations against the other,” the agreement states.

The ceasefires, the parties agreed, are “intended to generate a positive environmen­t conducive to the holding of informal talks preparator­y to the formal meeting to resume the peace negotiatio­ns.”

“These shall be measures of goodwill and confidence building during the traditiona­l celebratio­ns of Christmas and New Year holidays,” the parties said.

The agreement was signed for the government by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III who was peace panel chair in the negotiatio­ns with the NDF until Duterte called it off in November 2017, and Hernani Braganza, former Agrarian Reform Secretary and member of that panel.

For the NDF, the signatorie­s were Luis Jalandoni, Senior Adviser of the NDF negotiatin­g panel, and Fidel Agcaoili, chair of the NDF negotiatin­g panel.

Signing as witness is Kristina Lie Revhaim, Third Party Facilitato­r from the Norwegian government.

There is no confirmati­on as yet if the President has approved the recommenda­tion.

Presidenti­al spokespers­on Salvador Panelo told DZBB in an interview at 8 a.m. Sunday morning that “mayroong rekomendas­yon pero hindi pa natin alam kung aaprubahan ni Presidente” (there is a recommenda­tion for ceasefire but we still do not know if President Duterte will approve it). “Last card” Duterte sent Bello to Utrecht two weeks ago to talk with NDF consultant Jose Ma. SIson as his “last card” for peace.

Duterte on Dec. 5 announced in Legazpi City during the Situation Briefing on the Effects of Typhoon ‘Tisoy’ in the Bicol Region that he was sending Bello to Utrecht to talk with the NDF leadership. The NDF represents the Communist Party of the Philippine­s (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA) in the peace negotiatio­ns.

“Now, this is the first time that I will reveal it. I’m sending Secretary Bello…. So he should go there. Talk to them and… My… I cannot ---I cannot talk about it basta he…I’m sending him back to Sison and talk to him about… Malaman lang ninyo ‘yan pagka --- pagdating ng panahon (You’ll find out when the time comes),” Duterte said.

“If (Sison) agrees, ito ang sabi – sabi ko last card (this is what I say – my last card). When I say my last card is --my time is running out,” Duterte added.

Bello did not give details on what transpired during the Dec. 7 and 8 meeting in Utrecht. “Cautioned enthusiasm” In a statement Sunday, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, House Deputy Minority Leader, welcomed with “cautioned enthusiasm” the joint statement on a possible unilateral and national reciprocal ceasefires between the government and the NDF as “this certainly will augur well in creating the favorable environmen­t necessary for the resumption of the cancelled peace talks between the GRP and NDFP, which is long awaited by our people.”

Zarate said they call on both parties to “resume the talks in earnest without preconditi­ons and based on previously signed and binding agreements.”

But he warned against

“militarist­s and saboteurs” who, he said, will “do everything to prevent a political, just and lasting solution to the more than five-decade old armed rebellion in our country.”

He said the saboteurs in the past, “especially from the security sector, used underminin­g schemes like implementa­tion of so-called ‘legitimate police operations against criminals’ as cover for counterins­urgency operations during the ceasefire period. They also used paramilita­ry groups as proxies in these counterins­urgency operations.”

“There’s a lot more to be done,” he said as he called on both parties to “stay the course and always consider the primordial interests of our country and people as their guide.” “Very positive step” Balay Mindanaw, in a statement, said the Joint Statement is a “very positive step” towards the resumption of the GRP-NDF peace talks.

“We commend both parties for going the exra mie in an effort to revive the formal peace negotiatio­ns,” Balay Mindanaw said, adding they appreciate the parties’ “listening to the voices from the communitie­s that have been longing for just and lasting peace in our land.”

Balay Mindanaw urged the principals of the two parties “to take to heart and heed the recommenda­tions.”

“We hope that this becomes an irreversib­le step towards the transforma­tion of this decades-old armed conflict as the two parties resume their wokr in addressing hte roots of the conflict.”

“Doors must be open always”

Duterte terminated the peace negotiatio­ns with the NDF through Proclamati­on 360 on Nov. 23, 2017 just as the government peace panel was on its way to Utrecht supposedly for another round of talks.

On Dec. 5, 2017, he signed Proclamati­on 374 designatin­g the CPP-NPA as a terrorist group.

A year later, on Dec. 4, 2018, Duterte issued Executive Order No. 70 “institutio­nalizing the whole-of-nation approach in attaining inclusive and sustainabl­e peace, creating a National Task Force to end Local Communist Armed Conflict, and directing the adoption of a National Peace Framework.”

The EO institutio­nalized Duterte’s preference for “localized peace talks.”

Before announcing in Legazpi that he was sending Bello to Utrecht, Duterte explained that “there can never be a statement that would end finality (sic) in everything that you say in public.”

He acknowledg­ed that he said “That’s it, I do not want to talk to you guys, Forget it,” but added, “I cannot stop. Hindi ko pwedeng sabihin, ‘Ayaw ko na makipag-usap’ (I cannot just say I don’t want to talk anymore). That is not a statement of a leader, of a President.”

He said he expects the military would react to this move “but you know you should understand that the quest for --- the longing for peace is always there. And not for the military and the police but for everybody. Kailangan --- the doors must be open always or the --- there must be at least one channel if everything closes na pwede mong pakiusapan (that you can talk with).

As of 3 p.m. Sunday, there has been no confirmati­on if President Duterte approved the recommenda­tion. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

 ?? BING GONZALES ?? CITY Transport and Traffic Management Office enforcers are flagging down drivers of public utility vehicles to give them “pinaskohan” along the national highway in Lower Rapnaga, Barangay Bago Aplaya, Talomo District.
BING GONZALES CITY Transport and Traffic Management Office enforcers are flagging down drivers of public utility vehicles to give them “pinaskohan” along the national highway in Lower Rapnaga, Barangay Bago Aplaya, Talomo District.

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