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Soldiers ordered to honor ceasefire

President Duterte on Friday told soldiers to observe the indefinite ceasefire agreement between the government and the communist rebels to facilitate the peace talks aimed at ending one of Asia’s longest running insurgencies.

Speaking at the 10th anniversary of the Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command in Panacan, Davao City, the Commander-in-Chief told soldiers: “We have declared a ceasefire, just observe it please so they can talk there without the ruckus and everything.”

He called on the soldiers to take advantage of the “windows that are already open” and concentrate on the fight against drugs and extremism.

“We are in a best position now, there’s a window. It is not really very big but may window ngayon for us to take stock of everything,” said Duterte.

A joint statement issued by negotiators from the government and the Maoist group said that “the Communist Party of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines shall declare and issue an indefinite unilateral ceasefire order to the New People’s Army and the people’s militia, upon the end of their current ceasefire order on August 27, 2016. The aforesaid unilateral ceasefire shall be in response to President Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire which was effective indefinitely from August 21, 2016.”

The negotiating panels also agreed to work through their respective ceasefire committees to reconcile and develop their separate unilateral ceasefire orders into a single unified bilateral document within 60 days from the date of the joint statement.

With the truce in effect, “we are not fighting the communists,” the President said, as he assured the troops that while the communists can have the mundane departments – Social Welfare and Development and Education – he will not give them the police, the military, and the National Police Commission.

“Hindi talaga…It remains to be the commander-in-chief, whoever is the one elected by the Filipino people. Not to me personally, because ako passing lang po after six years, kung aabot ako. Pag hindi, sorry,” he said.

Muslim secessionist groups, particularly the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front have also expressed their desire to talk, according to the President. He said the MILF had even surrendered the drug addicts under their custody.

On the MNLF, Duterte said, “I have yet to hear from Nur (Misuari). But I said, Nur, if he comes out of his hiding place in Jolo, my advice to you guys, the Army and the police, and everybody is let him be. Let him be.”

“Nur, I wouldn’t say sick, I hope he is well, but he is already old. He can’t run anymore. And the last thing that I would want is really, God forbid, hopefully not, if ever something will happen to him when he’s in our custody,” he continued.

“There’s nobody of significance in that area who has the preeminence, like Nur Misuari. If something would happen to him in our custody, we can kiss goodbye about peace in that area. And I’m referring to the Bangsamoro and the Bangsa Tausug,” the President stated. (ELENA L. ABEN)