DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte declared a ceasefire between government troops and the local New People's Army (NPA) to allow sympathizers of slain communist rebel leader Leoncio B. Pitao, known as Kumander Parago, to pay their final respects.
Duterte invoked his position as the Regional Peace and Order Council chairperson in a statement that also addressed militant groups in his city.
"It's ceasefire, we have to respect the dead,” he said. “I can tell government forces, and I am telling you now, we need to have a ceasefire."
Duterte said that NPA rebels who do not have warrants of arrest are free to pay their respects to Pitao, “but those who are facing cases in court...are not included in the ceasefire."
He made a guarantee that those who are not at large will not be harmed, promising that there would be “no disturbance, no oppression.”
“After the burial,” he added, “you go back to the countryside, fight again if you want. The police and the military will not and cannot surrender, and you, too, won't surrender.”
Duterte paid his own respects to Pitao and Pitao’s medical aide Kyle on Monday night, accompanied by Task Force Davao commander Col. Macaraig Alberto and Davao City Police Director Supt. Vicente Danao.
It was a rare instance of cops and soldiers attending the wake of a rebel.
Duterte told Pitao's wife Evangeline that both the police and the military were there “because they want to pay respects because he is a human being."
"We do not hate each other because we are enemies,” Duterte said. “We observe a certain decorum. Respect is important regardless of creed or color. I want everyone to be comfortable here in my city."
Alberto said the local military will abide by the ceasefire order as long as it applies to rebels without warrants of arrest.
“We have to enforce the law," he said. – Rappler.com