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Why are ceasefires unilateral? Yes for Peace advocates ask

April 22, 2020 Uncategorized

The unilateral ceasefire declared by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic officially ended last April 15.

In response, the CPP-NPA-NDF initially rejected the Philippine Government’s proposal, and through Jose Maria Sison, decried President Duterte’s declaration as insincere.

Shortly after, however, answering the call of the United Nations for the cessation of armed hostilies in countries plagued by both COVID-19 and internal armed conficts, the NDF later declared its own unilateral ceasefire, which also lapsed on April 15.

Yet, armed confrontations between elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and armed partisans of the NPA continued unabated as if no ceasefire had been previously declared, and both parties seemed to accused each other of violations.

On one hand, Luis Jalandoni of the NDF officially complained to the United Nations that the AFP allegedly commited 13 violations that reportedly affected 196 villages and 96 towns.

On the other hand, AFP Spokesman Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo revealed that the NPA committed at least 17 violations, including extortion from beneficiaries of government support to alleviate the suffering of civilians cause by the COVID-19.

Ernesto Angeles Alcanzare, organizer of Yes for Peace-Bayanihan ng Bayan, a non-government initiative started by students of the University of the Philippines System in the 1990s, lamented the continued armed conflicts and asks, through a “Hands-off Our Children” Facebook post, “Why are ceasefires unilateral, couldn’t these be bilateral?”

The word “unilateral” basically means “one-sided.”

A “unilateral decision” is one that is made by one person, leader, or a collective, and imposed on others. Likewise, a “unilateral ceasefire” is a cessation of hostilities, such as in a war, which is only binding on one of the combatant sides.

Realizing that negotiations are needed for a bilateral ceasefire to be declared, Alcanzare suggested in an open letter addressed to the government peace negotiators and the CPP-NPA-NDF, the need to have an open and transparent peace negotiations, which can be held via a reliable cloud platform for video and audio conferencing. He, however, suggest to use Zoom.

“Just like the recent meeting of ASEAN leaders, which was conducted online, hopefully, the bilateral meetings will not only be a web conference but  livestreamed as well, over various social media platforms, just like what the Presidential Communications Operations Office is doing with its regular Laging Handa COVID-19 breifings, so that the public can see,” Alcanzare said.

“A bilateral ceasefire will lay down specific conditions and clear guidelines, which both parties will be forced to follow,” he added.

“Livestreamed negotiations to come up with a bilateral ceasefire will by itself be a milestone in the peace process. Its built-in transparency will establish, once and for all, what party really represents the interests of the Filipino people,” Alcanzare further said.

On his part, Mama S. Lalanto, a peace advocate and a former member of the Board of Directors of the Philippine Postal Corporation hopes that Alcanzare’s idea will seriously be taken into consideration and suggests, “Filipino, the national language, should be used in the online peace talks to heighten public interest and usher in people’s participation in the comprehensive peace process.”

Lawyer Domingo B. Alidon, president of the National Employees’ Union of the Department of Education also looks forward to the conduct of peace talks online and possible permanent cessation of hostilities.

“The open and transparent nature of online peace talks will surely catch the attention of the people during the enhanced community quarantine,” Alidon said.

Meanwhile, the AFP will move on and continue protecting the people not only from COVID-19, but from all reported atrocities and alleged extortion activities of the NPA. (PIA NCR)

source https://pia.gov.ph/news/articles/1039651

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