MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is “okay” with a request from his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, to be exempted from the holiday ceasefire between government forces and the communist New People’s Army (NPA), Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said on Thursday, December 26.
“Kay Presidente, okay lang naman, wala pa namang peace talks eh (For the President, it’s okay, since there are no peace talks yet),” Panelo told reporters in a briefing in Malacañang.
The younger Duterte earlier asked her father’s administration to exempt the city from the ceasefire in place from December 23, 2019, to January 7, 2020, because she believes the communist rebels cannot be trusted.
The NPA would only use the ceasefire as an opportunity to push back against the government, the mayor added.
The Duterte administration had reciprocated the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) declaration of a ceasefire over the Christmas and New Year holidays, as the two sides work on the President’s proposal to hold another round of peace negotiations, which he announced on December 5.
On December 23, the first day of the truce, the police and military reported 3 separate attacks that they blamed on the NPA. One Army soldier was killed and 6 others were wounded in an ambush in Labo, Camarines Norte, while two policemen were wounded in another another ambush in Iloilo. The third incident was reported in Tagkawayan, Quezon province.
Malacañang has condemned the incidents as violations of the ceasefire, but said the President would wait for an explanation from the CPP-NPA.
Asked whether Davao City’s exemption from the ceasefire meant government forces would launch offensives against the guerrillas, Panelo said he did not know of any ongoing military offensives in the area.
Current localized peace talks were going well, which meant there would not be any hostilities between the military and the NPA anyway, Panelo added.
Peace talks between local government units and individual NPA fronts comprise the government’s current main tack in resolving the communist rebellion, which marked its 51st year on Thursday.
Duterte ordered the localized peace talks in December 18, over a year after an earlier attempt to negotiate peace with the communists bogged down in November 2017.
Sara Duterte said she preferred to stick with the local government-led effort, and would ask to be exempted from an expected ceasefire if and when the proposed wholesale peace talks do take off.
Panelo echoed statements from Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr, saying they preferred localized peace talks because they have led to the surrender of many NPA guerrillas, effectively weakening the rebel force.
However, skirmishes between government troops and the NPA have been reported in different parts of the country despite local peace talks. – Rappler.com