By ROGER M. BALANZA
Philippine communist rebels may declare a ceasefire as the country fights off spread of the novel corona virus 2019 (Covid-19) on the condition that President Rodrigo Duterte resumes peace talks with the National Democratic Front Philippines (NDFP).
On the night of Monday, March 16, Duterte in his address to the nation spelling out government efforts against Covid-19, offered a ceasefire with the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), as the corona virus killed 14 people and infected 187 others.
CPP founding chairman Jose Maria “Joma” Sison welcomed the offer which shall be “seriously studied” by the NDFP and the CPP, but wanted to get more out of the ceasefire — as a leverage for the Duterte administration to resume peace negotiations with communist rebels.
Duterte scrapped peace negotiations between the government and the communists in 2017 after the rebels launched massive offensives against the military, police and civilians, even as ground works for new rounds of talks were in motion.
We will look into Duterte’s ceasefire proposal not only in relation to COVID-19, but also resumption of the peace negotiations, said Sison, chief political adviser of the NDFP, the umbrella of the communist movement in the Philippines.
If he is really serious with his offer to have a ceasefire, Duterte must make a formal offer to the NDFP, said Sison in a response seen as an utter disregard for the calamity that has struck the country.
Sison’s suggestion is a long route to the declaration of the ceasefire as a tool to help fight Covid-19, which requires urgency. The Department of Health (DOH) statistics show the number of infected and deaths growing daily.
Duterte’s offer for a ceasefire with the rebels during his March 16 address to the nation was part of his call for public support for government efforts to stem spread of the deadly virus.
“If you (communist rebels) really want that we will be at all times on talking terms, in this time of crisis, kindly cooperate and help. It will be better if you help first. I will repay you with a good heart in the coming days,” Duterte said.
“The pronouncement of the President (calling for a ceasefire with the NPA) manifests his yearning for the safety and well-being of our countrymen in the face of Covid-19 pandemic,” Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Felimon Santos, Jr., said on Tuesday, a day after the President made the offer.
The president, in the same public address, placed the entire Luzon under “enhanced community quarantine, which suspended public transportation and implements strict home quarantine for every household.
Santos said the ceasefire offer is due to the President’s desire to ensure the unimpeded delivery of government service to the people shaken by the effects of Covid-19.
“He desires that on this trying time, everyone — including the enemies of the state — works to ensure an unimpeded delivery of government services to our people distraught by uncertainty due to this worldwide affliction,” he said.
“By working together, we will emerge triumphant as a people and as a nation. And you can count on your AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines to be at the forefront,” Santos said. (with PNA report)