Reciprocal unilateral ceasefires can be declared by both National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) forces and the Manila government during the Christmas season following successful “informal” talks between the NDFP and President Rodrigo Duterte’s envoys in The Netherlands last weekend.
NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison told Kodao in an online interview that they have proposed goodwill measures “in the spirit of Christmas and the New Year” during their meeting with labor secretary Silvestre Bello III and Hernani Braganza, Duterte’s envoys, last December 7 and 8.
The goodwill measures include the release on humanitarian grounds of sick and elderly political prisoners and the detained NDFP consultants as well as the declaration and implementation of reciprocal unilateral ceasefires, Sison said.
Sison said Bello promised to present the proposed measures with the President. Bello was supposed to have reported to Duterte Wednesday night.
Sison added that another informal meeting may soon occur within the month to prepare for the formal meeting to resume the peace negotiations in the second or third week of January 2020 as Bello has earlier announced.
He said that such expectations are reasonable, “especially if the goodwill measures are carried out.”
A holiday truce, however, had been earlier opposed by the GRPs defense chief Delfin Lorenzana.
In a speech last December 9, Lorenzana rejected the idea of declaring a ceasefire with the New People’s Army (NPA) in the coming holidays.
“If there’s a ceasefire, the soldiers go back to their barracks because the operations are stopped. But the NPA are recruiting in the villages to increase their power,” Lorenzana said.
“Let us just not enter into a ceasefire,” Lorenzana said, adding there will be no let up in the conduct of intensified military operations against the NPA.
Sison slammed Lorenzana’s opposition to ceasefire declarations as “hostile and run counter to the wish of the GRP President and commander-in-chief to resume the peace negotiations.”
“The President should assert his political authority to overrule the militarists who wish to spoil or sabotage the efforts to resume the peace negotiations. Otherwise the peace negotiations cannot be resumed,” Sison said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)