Duterte withdraws communist ceasefire

MANILA • Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday withdrew a unilateral ceasefire with communist rebels after his ultimatum for the group to reciprocate lapsed.

Mr Duterte had announced the truce last Monday to help end one of Asia's longest insurgencies which has claimed tens of thousands of lives since the 1960s.

But the ceasefire was short-lived after communist rebels in the southern province of Davao del Norte killed on Wednesday one government militia member and wounded four others.

Mr Duterte on Friday gave the communists an ultimatum to explain the incident and to reciprocate the government ceasefire by yesterday afternoon but the deadline passed without a truce declaration from the rebels.

"I am hereby ordering the immediate lifting of the ceasefire," Mr Duterte said. "I am ordering all security forces to be on high alert and continue to discharge their normal functions to neutralise all threats to national security."

Mr Duterte, who assumed office on June 30 after a landslide election win, has said it was his "dream" to forge peace with communist rebels but asked them to show "good faith". Exiled rebel leader Jose Maria Sison, Mr Duterte's university professor, said the communists were set to declare a ceasefire yesterday evening but the President had already called off the truce before an announcement could be made.

"Volatility, lack of prudence in something as sensitive and delicate as peace negotiations between two armed fighting sides, it's hard to agree with people who are quick to judgment," Mr Sison told ABS-CBN television. "The revolutionary movement is treated as if it's a servant of the new boss. That cannot be."

A regional spokesman for the communists' armed wing, the New People's Army, also said yesterday that the government ceasefire in the southern region of Mindanao was "spurious" because security forces were still conducting combat operations.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 31, 2016, with the headline 'Duterte withdraws communist ceasefire'. Print Edition | Subscribe