“Deal with me in government in good faith.”
President Duterte said this to the Communist Party of the Philippines as he challenged the Maoist rebels to prove their sincerity in the peace process.
Angered by a New People’s Army attack that left one militiaman dead and four others wounded after he has declared a unilateral ceasefire, the President said he is not in the business of lying when he declared a cessation of hostilities between the government and the ideological groups, particularly the CPP-NPA-National Democratic Front.
“I dealt with you in good faith. You tell me if you are not ready to deal in the same manner,” the President said when he visited the wake of the slain government militiaman, CAA Panggong S. Komanod, at the headquarters of the Army 60th Infantry Battalion in Asuncion, Daval del Norte Friday.
“I decided to declare a unilateral ceasefire because I know that the Philippines needs peace to survive in the coming generation. Actually, this is not for us, it is for our children,” he stressed.
Duterte declared the unilateral ceasefire during his first State-of-the-Nation Address last July 25 to bring immediate peace to the affected areas and protect the communities from conflict and in order to provide an enabling environment for the resumption of peace negotiations.
But after the NPA attacked a convoy of government militiamen in Sitio Pilapil, Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte, Wednesday, Duterte said: “Hindi ko malaman ngayon, whether they (CPP-NPA) are really (into the peace talks).”
“So, I’d like to issue this statement: Hindi ko kayo tinatakot. Pag ayaw ninyo, okay sa akin. We fight for another generation. Okay sa akin. Wala na akong magawa,” said Duterte.
To prove he was dead serious, the President gave an ultimatum to the communist rebels that ended at 5 p.m. yesterday to reciprocate and explain why there was an infraction of the unilateral ceasefire which he initiated.
They have yet to reciprocate as of presstime.
“If I do not hear a word from you then I will lift the order of ceasefire,” he warned.
Duterte also deplored the condition imposed by the rebel group to withdraw government troops and police forces in rebel-infested areas. “Tell me that I will order the Army and the police out of the mountain that is out of the question. I said that from the start.”
He likewise reiterated the need for peace in Mindanao to pave the way for various economic and industrial developments, emphasizing that “we have to develop Mindanao; while there is a war raging, the people will go hungry.”
According to the President, the cost of the insurgency not only translates to the loss of lives, it also puts a strain on the budget. For every soldier killed in action, the government spends P200,000; another P50,000 for personal suffering or minor injuries, and P100,000 for serious injuries.
And as the President has been consistent in his stand for peace and in his desire to achieve this goal, Duterte called on the CPP to deal with him in government in good faith.
“Deal with us, deal with me in government, in good faith. Let us not kid around. I have shown already many years ago my sincerity and I’ve been selling this idea to you. We need to stop fighting,” he said. (Elena L. Aben)