Duterte 'walked the extra mile for peace' – Dureza

MANILA, Philippines – The government's peace adviser said President Rodrigo Duterte "walked the extra mile for peace" as a unilateral ceasefire against communist rebels was rescinded Saturday evening, July 30.

In a statement on Sunday, July 31, peace adviser Secretary Jesus Dureza detailed the timeline of events that started when Duterte declared a ceasefire against communist rebels and ended when he lifted that same declaration.

"It is very clear that the President walked the extra mile for peace. And no doubt, he will still continue to do so at any given opportunity," said Dureza, who added that he will make recommendations to the President and the Cabinet when they convene Monday afternoon, August 1.

By end August, government negotiators and representatives of the National Democratic Front (NDF) are set to meet for the resumption of peace talks.

Here's the timeline of events as detailed by Dureza:

The President's declaration

On July 25, during his first State of the Nation Address, Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire with the NDF, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and the New People's Army (NPA) "in order to stop violence on the ground, safeguard the citizenry and provide an enabling environment for the resumption of peace negotiation," Dureza quoted Duterte as saying.

"Consistent with previous unilateral ceasefires like during christmas holidays, there was high expectation that the National Democratic Front would forthwith and immediately announce also its own as positive response to the President's declaration. This was precisely the reason for the President's statement in the SONA that he was calling on and expecting the NDF 'to respond accordingly,'" added Dureza.

But the response took time.

"The following day, July 26, the NDF, instead of issuing its expected declaration said they could not do so as yet as they were waiting for the precise written orders on the ceasefire," said Dureza.

Meanwhile, the military and police both issued orders to units on the ground to stop offensive operations against the NPA.

"Copies thereof were sent immediately to the NDF in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Yet in spite of this, there was still no declaration from them," added the Cabinet secretary.

NPA clash

"The following day, July 27 a firefight happened between the NPAs and elements of the AFP civilian auxiliary in Davao del Norte resulting to the death of a civilian auxiliary force member and the wounding of 3 others. The President then called on the CPP/NPA/NDF again to explain why this happened in the midst of his ceasefire declaration," said Dureza.

The NDF was given until July 28 to explain. "Still the expected declaration was not issued," noted Dureza.

On July 29, during a visit to a military camp in Davao del Norte, the President "lamented the unnecessary loss of lives and publicly asked again the NDF to issue its own declaration of unilateral ceasefire to avoid similar incidents to happen."

Added Dureza: "Although already obviously disappointed and exasperated, he announced 5 o'clock the following day (July 30) as a final deadline otherwise he would lift the government's ceasefire in order to further secure the civilians and secure the peace."

By 5 pm of July 30, there was still no word from the NDF.

"But the President still patiently waited," said Dureza.

'Disturbing messages'

While the President was waiting for a response, Dureza noted "disturbing messages" from the ranks of the NPA.

"Its Southern Mindanao Regional Command claimed the government's unilateral ceasefire was 'non-existent' as it also blamed the AFP as 'sabotaging' the ceasefire. Its leadership also belittled the efforts of the President, saying that he could not dictate on the revolutionaries," he said.

By 7 pm on July 30, Duterte declared the ceasefire over.

Dureza noted that an hour after Duterte's announcement, the NDF "publicly stated in the media that it was already ready to issue its own corresponding ceasefire declaration."

He noted that this happened after they were "evidently informed of the President's announced position."

Still Dureza said the NDF's "belated but still strategic and awaited decision" to announce its own unilateral ceasefire is a "welcome development."

"It affirms the value of the President's firm actions for peace. This is what we have been waiting for," he added. – Bea Cupin / Rappler.com