Duterte still open to Maoist peace

The Philippine army is one of the most poorly resourced in Asean. Source: Wikimedia

 

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte could re-impose a ceasefire with Maoist rebels a day after it was withdrawn, sources say.

Duterte scrapped the unilateral truce with the New People’s Army on Saturday, six days after it was declared ahead of formal peace talks in Norway during August.

The rebels did not respond to a deadline to reciprocate the truce so it was withdrawn.

“We may work out a negotiated truce with the communists,” Duterte’s peace adviser Jesus Dureza said. “It was in our agenda when the formal peace talks resume in Oslo. The peace talks will go on as scheduled.”

The peace talks, arranged by the Oslo government, will resume on August 20, four years after being abandoned due to the communists’ demand for 500 prisoners to be freed. Manila has now promised to free the political prisoners for “health and humanitarian reasons”.

Rebel leader Jose Maria Siso said the rebels had intended to impose a truce but were overtaken by events.

“This is what we have been waiting for,” Dureza said. “The leadership of the CPP/NPA/NDF announced through the media its belated but still strategic and awaited decision to also declare its own unilateral ceasefire.”

Yesterday, Sunday, the Communist Party of the Philippines central committee offered to declare a truce with Manila on August 20.

“The timeframe can be determined through negotiations,” the communists said. It said both sides could “discuss points for cooperation and coordination and determine ways of preventing armed skirmishes, misunderstandings and miscommunications during the course of the peace talks”.

Duterte is possibly keen to avoid wars on too many fronts. Since taking power in June hundreds of killings have taken place with bodies left with cardboard signs reading “pusher” but drugs and crime are so deep-rooted, there is barely any public backlash.

Around 316 alleged drug dealers were killed between July 1 and 27, with 195 of them vigilante killings, according to the police, although that number is disputed. Human rights activists estimate the death toll to be at least double the official number.