A call for sobriety

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Yesterday, I woke up to the news that President Rodrigo Duterte was not keen on declaring a holiday ceasefire this year with the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). This, after CPP founding chair Jose Ma. Sison said they would be declaring a holiday truce. Sison said the communists were set to observe a holiday truce to allow guerillas and their families to “freely enjoy” the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the CPP on 26 December.

“It would be a
win-win
situation for the entire country if these peace talks are resumed.

The President’s hesitation in declaring a ceasefire for the holiday season is the latest development in the ongoing saga of the government’s efforts to reach an amicable settlement with the rebels, with the Filipino people waiting with bated breath for the will-they-or-won’t-they talks that have yet to happen.

I certainly understand President Duterte’s frustrations, especially after top consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) canceled their trip to the country after realizing they would not be granted a direct audience with the President. Communist leaders earlier had sought a meeting with the President on the resumption of peace talks which was terminated by the government last year because of the rebels’ attacks on civilians and security forces.

I believe the President made the right call in terminating the talks last year because the attacks made by the NPA showed it wasn’t really sincere in finding a peaceful way to end its decades-old insurgency.

Over the years, it has become a tradition for both the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and communist rebels to observe a truce during the holidays through separate ceasefire declarations. This year, however, military leaders have said they are not inclined to recommend a truce, echoing President Duterte’s sentiments.

Amid the repeatedly delayed talks and this latest development in ceasefire agreements (or lack thereof), I humbly urge both parties – the government of the Philippines and the CPP-NPA-NDFP – to remember that they have to show good faith in order for the peace process to move forward and work. The ceasefire being extended by the CPP-NPA, while needing to be taken with a grain of salt given their previous actions, should nevertheless be taken as a gesture of goodwill from the rebels. In turn, the CPP-NPA should also have faith that the government is doing everything it can to achieve the genuine change the President has promised, and to address the root causes of the armed conflict: poverty, inequality and injustice. And if the rebels are indeed willing to resume peace talks, then regardless of the President and military’s decision on whether or not to declare a ceasefire on their end, they should not rescind their already declared unilateral truce. I trust, meanwhile, that the AFP leadership is in the best position to know whether a ceasefire is wise at this junction.

“The President made the right call in terminating the talks last year because… the NPA showed it wasn’t really sincere in finding a peaceful way to end its
decades-old
insurgency.

For decades, the communist insurgency has taken its toll on our countrymen, especially those who live in communities known to be hideouts of the rebels. It would be a win-win situation for the entire country if these peace talks are resumed and I pray that sober minds will prevail to prevent any more bloodshed, especially during the holiday season.

What are your thoughts?

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