The Philippine president has withdrawn a cease-fire order after communist guerrillas killed a government militiaman and failed to declare their own truce by a Saturday deadline he had given.
President Rodrigo Duterte ordered all government forces to go on high alert and “continue to discharge their normal functions and mandate to neutralize all threats to national security, protect the citizenry, enforce the laws and maintain peace in the land.”
Duterte declared the government cease-fire Monday in the latest sign of his strong relations with the Maoist rebels. Two days later, however, rebels killed a government militiaman and wounded four others in southern Davao del Norte province, angering Duterte, who gave the rebels until 5 pm (UTC+8:00) Saturday to declare their own cease-fire.
The new president brought fresh hopes of resuming peace talks with the Maoist insurgents, which stalled under his predecessor. The decadeslong 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 had said he would scuttle his cease-fire order, which he issued Monday, if the New People’s Army guerrillas did not match with their own by 5 pm Saturday. He initially threatened to withdraw the cease-fire 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 militiaman’s wake in southern Davao del Norte province. The militiaman was killed in a rebel ambush Wednesday that also wounded four others.
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“If I don’t get the word from you, then I will lift the order of cease-fire,” Duterte had warned, 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.”
After the guerillas failed to order a cease-fire, Duterte withdrew the ceasefire on Saturday.