The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) has issued its unilateral ceasefire declaration in advance, amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis, but will not be reciprocated by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), an exiled leader of the communist party in the country said.
“However, from the viewpoint of the NDFP, there is yet no clear basis for the NDFP to reciprocate the aforesaid declaration of the GRP,” said exiled communist leader Jose Maria Sison, NDFP Chief Political Consultant, in a statement.
“There is communication going on between the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels. But there is yet no agreement for reciprocal unilateral ceasefires in connection with certain considerations, requirements and modalities,” said Sison.
The NDFP represents the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in talks with the government.
Sison is on political asylum in The Netherlands.
Sison said there has to be catch-up on these matters, if still possible. The ceasefire declaration by the GRP or the Duterte regime is premature, if not insincere and false.
He said the NDFP is not assured and satisfied that the reciprocal unilateral ceasefires are based on national unity against Covid-19, the appropriate solution of the pandemic as a medical problem and protection of the most vulnerable sectors of the population, including workers, health workers, those with any serious ailments and the political prisoners.
Sison said, unless it receives sufficient assurances from the GRP, the NDFP will be inclined to think that the GRP unilateral ceasefire declaration is not sincere and is not intended to invite reciprocation by the NDFP but is meant to be a mere psywar trick.
Sison said, according to the people and the revolutionary forces in the Philippines, the lack of sincerity of President Rodrigo Duterte in seeking a ceasefire with the NDFP is manifested by the following:
- The militarist lockdown on the whole of Luzon is meant not to fight the Covid-19 pandemic but to intimidate the people, suppress democratic rights, commit human rights violations and prevent the working people from going to their workplaces, and immobilize even the health workers and people who wish to tested and treated for Covid-19 and serious ailments.
- The AFP and PNP continue to redtag, abduct and murder social activists, including human rights defenders, in urban areas and to unleash attacks against the people in the guerrilla fronts of the New People’s Army.
“Despite all the above, the NDFP continues to hope that the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels come to clear terms on certain considerations, requirements and modalities for the benefit of the people,” said Sison.
“Promises of Duterte, such as doing a good turn from a good heart, can be believed only as they are realized promptly and according to a definite schedule,” said Sison.
Duterte on Wednesday declared a unilateral ceasefire with communist rebels, as state forces were sent to man borders and enforce guidelines of the Luzon-wide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), where more than 200 have already been infected nationwide.
Malacanang said the ceasefire will take effect March 19 and last until April 15, 2020.
Duterte ordered the Department of National Defense (DND), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to “cease and desist from carrying out offensive military and police operations during the ceasefire period,” said Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.
“Through this ceasefire, the Philippine government aspires that the swift provision of public health assistance goes unimpeded with the movement of health workers and medical supplies to communities, well as of people in need of immediate medical attention,” Panelo said.
Duterte declared the entire Luzon under “enhanced community quarantine”, which others described as a “lockdown”, on midnight Monday, strictly suspending all public transport, public and private school and work, except for frontline services, and some exempt private sector enterprises, barring public gatherings, and intensifying troop deployment to enforce travel restrictions.
This was made as government sought to stop the spread of COVID-19, which has infected 202 people as of Wednesday, with 17 deaths and 7 recoveries.
Government peace negotiations with the communist rebels earlier collapsed after continued rebel attacks on state troops despite ongoing talks.
Earlier, the NDFP said it will “seriously study” Duterte’s offer for a ceasefire as the country faces the threat of COVID-19.
Duterte on Monday called for a truce with communist rebels as the country grapples with containing the rapidly spreading COVID-19.
Duterte made the appeal during a public address as he placed the entire island of Luzon under an expanded quarantine.
“Ceasefire muna tayo. Mas mabuti pang tumulong muna kayo. I will repay you with a good heart,” he said.
The President formally terminated peace talks with the rebels in March 2019, saying he would no longer entertain any “persuasions” from the communists.
However, in December, Duterte ordered Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to meet with Sison.
The President did not specify what Bello and Sison would talk about but said that “the quest for longing for peace has always been there” and that it was his “last card.”/Stacy Ang