Duterte to military: Exercise ‘restraint’ amid ceasefire

Pia Ranada
Duterte to military: Exercise ‘restraint’ amid ceasefire
President Rodrigo Duterte also says that the ceasefire and the peace process with rebels won't keep the government from beefing up the military in preparation 'for any eventuality'

NUEVA ECIJA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday, July 26,  called on the military to exercise “restraint” amidst the ceasefire with communist rebels.

Duterte made the call a day after he announced a unilateral ceasefire with the New People’s Army (NPA) in his State of the Nation Address, while addressing soldiers in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija – his 3rd visit to a military camp in around a week.

“We’re in very delicate situation now and we’re now talking so tayo, whatever there is, issue public restraint. ‘Di tayo hanap away, at least, ‘di galing sa atin (Let’s not look for a fight, at least, it should not come from us),” he said.

But the ceasefire won’t stop Duterte from beefing up the military, especially in the event that the peace talks should fail.

“But we should be prepared for  any eventuality. Just like any country in the world, we have to have a strong armed forces. We should have a military who can protect the people and integrity of this Republic,” he said.

To strengthen the military, Duterte said he intends to continue modernizing the Armed Forces of the Philippines and adding “20,000 soldiers.” 

“You’ll have everything you need para ‘di dehado sa bakbakan (so we aren’t on the losing end of a fight),” he said. 

He plans to purchase more fast boats and state-of-the-art guns. Duterte also drew cheers from the soldiers when he announced an “incremental” increase in their salary in August.

‘Ready for instant failure’

“We will be ready for an instant failure. Kung ‘di nagkatuluyan, eh di sige, bakbakan, walang magawa (If the peace talks don’t prosper, there will be fighting),” Duterte said.

Duterte told the roughly 500 soldiers gathered at the military camp that the Philippines is in a “delicate situation” because the government is pursuing peace negotiations with both secessionists in Mindanao and communists.

He said the ceasefire declaration is not his sole decision, but was made in consultation with members of his Cabinet Security Cluster including Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr, who stood behind him as he delivered his speech.

He said it is now up to the left to help uphold the ceasefire. 

“There is always time to talk about war and talk about peace. Kung ginusto nila ‘yan, nasa kanila ‘yan (If they want it, it’s up to them). Ceasefire is ceasefire,” said Duterte.

He is now waiting for Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison’s next moves, following the government’s ceasefire declaration.

“Sison, I’m waiting for his reply. Wait and see tayo (Let’s wait and see),” he said. 

The National Democratic Front (NDF) had said that it would “soon” reciprocate the ceasefire declaration. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.