MANILA - The government peace panel on Friday expressed sadness over the ambush of troops by the New People's Army (NPA) just a few days after President Rodrigo Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire with leftist rebels.
"It is disheartening that the NPA failed to respect the unilateral ceasefire declared by President Duterte last Monday during the SONA (State of the Nation Address)," said presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella, reading a statement from the peace panel.
One member of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) was killed while four others were wounded after they were ambushed by NPA rebels in Davao del Norte.
Government peace panel chair Silvestre Bello III immediately confronted National Democratic Front (NDF) peace panel negotiator Fidel Agcaoili following the incident.
According to Agcaoili, the NPA, which is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), has been on "active defense" since July 26, or a day after Duterte's SONA, while waiting for the operational details of the ceasefire declaration.
Agcaoili, however, promised Bello to look into the matter, stressing that they are also committed to resume peace negotiations with the Philippine government to achieve just and lasting peace.
The government panel, for its part, said it will wait for the results of NDF's verification of the incident.
The panel also reiterated the President's call to the CPP-NPA-NDF to reciprocate the government's ceasefire declaration "in order to immediately stop violence on the ground, protect our communities from conflict and provide an enabling environment for the resumption of formal peace negotiations."
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Abella admitted that Duterte was upset when he heard news of the attack, but has given the leftist rebels "a brief window of opportunity" to explain the incident.
Abella said Duterte is a "rational person" and will do "what needs to be done."
"Whatever trust there is must be firmed up from their (NPA's) side," Abella told reporters.
"As soon as the trust is restored, then things will proceed as agreed upon," he added, when asked if the administration will push through with the release of political prisoners.
Duterte on Thursday warned the CPP to honor the unilateral ceasefire, or he will be forced to cancel the declaration.
READ: Duterte warns CPP: Honor the truce, or else...