THE ongoing unilateral ceasefire declarations of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) will stand over the Christmas and New Year holidays, promising to be the longest ever truce between the Manila government and the revolutionary Left.
The ceasefire declarations of August by both parties remain valid for December and January if not terminated, according to NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison.
“The NDFP has no intention of terminating the unilateral ceasefire declaration in December and probably even in January,” Sison said.
Previously, the Corazon Aquino GRP signed a 60-day ceasefire agreement with the NDFP as a result of their August-December 1986 formal talks at the University of the Philippines in Diliman.
The agreement was terminated after seven farmers were killed in what became known as the Mendiola Massacre of January 1987.
“But the NDFP keeps on reminding the GRP to order its military force to desist from invading the territory of the people’s democratic government and to stop committing atrocities under Oplan Bayanihan or some other ‘oplan’,” Sison added.
President Rodrigo Duterte for his part asked the Armed Forces of the Philippines to observe a ceasefire over the Christmas and new year holidays.
“As agreed upon with local religious leaders, I am honestly, sincerely asking you for a ceasefire beginning December 23 to 27, then new year, 31st hanggang January 2, 3,” Duterte told the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in his speech at at its 81st anniversary rites at Camp Aguinaldo yesterday.
In his speech, Duterte also confirmed Sison’s announcement on Facebook that they talked on the phone last December 19.
“I had a friendly and productive phone conversation with President Duterte about advancing the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations at around 7 p.m. last night Utrecht time,” Sison said.
Kodao interviewed Sison about these developments:
Kodao: What did you and Duterte talk about?
Jose Maria Sison (JMS): We talked in general terms. I focused on the need to amnesty and release all the political prisoners and accelerate the negotiations on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) as well as on Political and Constitutional Reforms (PCR).
I told him that the NDFP could go along with the GRP in founding the Federal Republic of the Philippines and making a new constitution with provisions for assuring enough resources for planned economic development and the preemption of political dynasties and warlordism.
President Duterte focused on opposing the oligarchs and running after corrupt officials. I agreed with him that the GRP and NDFP can agree on opposing US imperialism and the oligarchs in order to uphold national independence and economic development of the Philippines.
Kodao: On top of the existing unilateral GRP ceasefire with the NDFP, President Duterte asked the AFP to observe a ceasefire “beginning December 23-27, then new year, 31st hanggang January 2-3.” What can you say about this?
JMS: The existing unilateral declarations of the GRP and the NDFP remain valid for December and January if not terminated. The NDFP has no intention of terminating the unilateral ceasefire declaration in December and probably even in January. But it keeps on reminding the GRP to order its military force to desist from invading the territory of the people’s democratic government and to stop committing atrocities under Oplan Bayanihan or some other oplan.
Kodao: What was your discussion about the third round of the formal GRP-NDFP talks, if any?
JMS: We covered the third round of talks in a general way. I explained that we could make the comprehensive agreements in one year or less than two years. And we can cooperate on the implementation for three to five years. I told President Duterte that during his term, the foundation for the industrial development of the Philippines should be laid and we can proceed with further five-year economic plans to accomplish Ambisyon 2040.
Kodao: What was your discussion regarding the political prisoners, if any?
JMS: I indicated briefly that President Duterte and I could meet in Rome if all the political prisoners were released and the bilateral ceasefire agreement is already signed by the Negotiating Panels before or during the third round of talks.
Kodao: What is the truth regarding his claim that the CPP-NPA-NDFP “did not declare a cessation of hostilities somewhere”? (President Duterte may have been referring to the incident in Southern Mindanao region where NPA fighters killed GRP troops last August.)
JMS: It is possible that he was referring to that period in August when the CPP and NPA did not declare their own unilateral ceasefire and there was an NPA ambush on armed units of the AFP in Southern Mindanao. He must have mentioned it as an anecdote to show concern for his own troops.
Kodao: What can you say about his claim that the NPA fighters may visit their families during the holidays and visit military camps to break bread with GRP soldiers?
JMS: During the validity and effectivity of the unilateral ceasefire agreements, the NPA Red commands can arrange family visits of Red fighters and organize or join peace rallies like those on December 26. But visiting AFP military camps and breaking bread with AFP soldiers can entail more difficult decision-making and working out complex arrangements to ensure safety. But in previous instances, when the NPA released prisoners of war, the NPA hosted Mayor Duterte and his armed escorts in NPA territory.
Kodao: What is your reply to his statement that Communist rebels should “come down” from the mountains and rejoin society?”
JMS: It is appropriate for President Duterte to express his wish because the objective of the peace negotiations is to address the roots of the armed conflict, undertake social, economic, political and constitutional reforms and establish a just and lasting peace.
(Report and interview by Raymund B. Villanueva / Featured image by Jon Bustamante)