PRRD to decide on proposed Christmas truce Monday

By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

December 22, 2019, 12:15 pm

MANILA -- Malacañang on Sunday announced that there is a proposed temporary ceasefire between the national government and the communist movement, in observance of the holiday season.

The announcement came after Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison, who has been in a self-exile in the Netherlands since 1987, released the joint statement of the representatives from national government and the communist movement, recommending the issuance of a unilateral and reciprocal ceasefire nationwide from Dec. 23 this year to Jan. 7 next year.

“Yeah, meron nga (there is),” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in an interview with dzIQ, when sought to react to the authenticity of the recommended holiday ceasefire agreement between the two parties.

The joint statement, which contains the agreement, was signed by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, authorized state negotiator Hernani Braganza, National Democratic Front (NDF) negotiating panel senior adviser Luis Jalandoni, and NDF negotiating panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili.

Standing as witness was Kristina Lie Revheim, third party facilitator from the Norwegian government.

Both parties stressed that the ceasefire would help generate a “positive environment conducive to the holding of informal talks preparatory to the formal meeting to resume the peace negotiations.”

“The Parties shall separately issue the corresponding ceasefire orders. During the ceasefire period, the respective armed units and personnel of the Parties shall cease and desist from carrying out offensive military operations against the other,” the joint statement read.

“These shall be measures of goodwill and confidence building during the traditional celebrations of Christmas and New Year holidays,” it added.

Panelo said the President would make a decision by Monday.

“Palagay ko by this time natanggap na (Perhaps, the President is already aware of the recommendation),” the Palace official said. “Bukas natin malalaman (We’ll know his decision tomorrow).”

To recall, Duterte sent Bello to the Netherlands to relay to Sison the government’s plan to revive the stalled peace negotiations with the NDF, political wing of the CPP.

On Dec. 3, the President said opening the government's door to possible resumption of talks with the communists would be his "last card."

His latest pronouncement came after he formally shelved the peace talks with the NDF, through Proclamation 360 signed on Nov. 23, 2017, following the strings of attacks launched by the communists' armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), against the government troops and civilians.

On Dec. 5, 2017, the President followed it up with Proclamation 374, classifying the CPP-NPA as terror organizations because of their supposed commission of crimes that are “against the Filipino people, against humanity, and against the law of the nations.”

The CPP-NPA has also been listed as a terror group by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

The country’s security officials have expressed opposition to the declaration of a ceasefire with the communists due to the NPA rebels’ continued attacks against the government troops and civilians.

It was also alleged that Duterte was included in the supposed hit list of the communist group, but Sison on Friday denied the alleged plot to kill the President.

Long-lasting peace talks necessary

Panelo said the so-called hit list does not have an impact on the proposals to revive talks, since Sison already denied its existence.

He said the two parties have yet to finalize the resumption of peace talks.

The Palace official, nevertheless, expressed hope that the communist guerrillas would eventually abandon armed struggle and become productive members of the society.

He stressed that it is high time to achieve “long-lasting” peace in the country.

“Ang mensahe ng Malacañang sa kanila ay panahon na upang sila ay bumalik na muli sa ating lipunan. ‘Yun ang mensahe ni Presidente (Malacañang’s message is it’s time for them to reintegrate into the society. That’s the President’s message),” Panelo said.

“Tama na ‘yung limang dekadang pakikipaglaban na nag-resulta ng maraming patay sa magkabilang panig. Kinakailangang magkaroon na tayo ng pangmatagalang kapayapaan sa ating bansa (Stop the five decades of war that resulted in numerous killings of both government troops and communist rebels. We need to have long-lasting peace in the country),” he added. (PNA)