By Hader Glang
ZAMBOANGA CITY, the Philippines (AA) – The founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has asked for more time to probe a fatal ambush by its armed wing that killed a government militiaman just days after President Rodrigo Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire.
Jose Maria Sison told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Friday that the CPP’s political front had asked the concerned regional command of the New People’s Army (NPA) -- the CPP’s armed wing -- to investigate and submit a report on Wednesday’s attack.
According to the military, NPA rebels belonging to Guerilla Front 34 in southern Mindanao island ambushed a Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit in a village in southern Davao del Norte province, killing a government militiaman and injuring four others.
Duterte responded by threatening to withdraw the unilateral ceasefire declared during his first State of the Nation Address on Monday, and instructed a leftist congressman, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, to demand an explanation. He underlined that disciplinary action could also be taken against those responsible on the government side if they are found culpable.
Sison, who has been living in self-exile in the Netherlands since 1987, said Friday that peace negotiators of the government and the CPP’s National Democratic Front (NDF) were in touch to resolve the issue and resume peace talks.
Earlier Friday, Bello -- also a chief government negotiator -- said in a statement that it was “disheartening” that the NPA “failed to respect the unilateral ceasefire”.
He revealed that he had spoken with an NDF panel member and was informed that as far as Fidel Agcaoili is aware, the NPA has been on active defense mode Tuesday.
Bello said Agcaoli promised to look into the matter, adding that the government would await the results of the NDF’s verification.
He quoted Agcaoli as expressing the NDF’s commitment to resume peace negotiations as reiterated in a June statement issued by both sides in the capital of Norway. Bello also stressed that both sides continue preparations for upcoming talks scheduled Aug. 20-27 in Oslo.
“I strongly reiterate the call of President Duterte to the CPP/NPA/NDF to reciprocate the government’s ceasefire declaration in order to immediately stop violence on the ground, protect our communities from conflict, and provide an enabling environment for the resumption of formal peace negotiations,” he said.
In his address Monday, Duterte said he aims for a "permanent and lasting peace" before his term ends in 2022.
The CPP welcomed the declaration, describing it as a positive boost to the upcoming peace talks, but adding that the release of political prisoners should follow immediately.
Since March 1969, the NPA has been waging one of Asia's longest running insurgencies, which -- according to the military -- has claimed more than 3,000 lives over the past eight years.
Duterte has been making peace overtures to its political wing since he started to campaign for this year's presidential election.