‘Are you ready to declare a ceasefire or not?’: Duterte gives rebels final deadline to call truce
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gave communist guerrillas until Saturday to match his truce declaration or he would withdraw it following a rebel attack that killed a government militiaman.
The new president brought fresh hopes of resuming peace talks with the Maoist insurgents, which stalled under his predecessor. The decades-long insurgency, one of Asia’s longest, has left about 150,000 combatants and civilians dead since the late 1960s. It has stunted economic development, especially in the countryside, where the insurgents raid security forces’ outposts and mining and agricultural companies.
Duterte said he would scuttle his cease-fire order, which he issued on Monday, if the New People’s Army guerrillas did not match with their own by 5pm on Saturday.
He initially threatened to withdraw the ceasefire by Friday but extended his deadline after the rebels said they were investigating the guerrilla attack.
“Are you ready to declare a ceasefire or not?” Duterte asked during a news briefing, visibly upset after visiting the militia man’s wake in southern Davao del Norte province. The militiaman was killed in a rebel ambush on Wednesday that also wounded four others.
“If I don’t get the word from you, then I will lift the order of ceasefire,” he said, adding that he was rejecting rebel demands for him to withdraw government troops and police from certain rural areas.
Rebel leaders have asked Duterte to give them more time to study his truce declaration.
Duterte made friendly overtures to the guerrillas, then became more critical after the ambush.
“How many Filipinos have died and who killed them? Fellow Filipinos,” he said. “The problem with you [is] you carry the element of hate.”
It’s unclear if the emerging differences between Duterte, who was sworn in on June 30, and the insurgents could affect a resumption of peace talks from August 20 to 27 in the Norwegian capital of Oslo.