MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte did more than what was expected of him to forge peace in the country, his adviser claimed Sunday amid criticisms on the lifting of a government ceasefire with leftist rebels.
Peace adviser Jesus Dureza insisted Duterte considered "the best interest of the nation" on Saturday when he revoked the unilateral truce before it could be reciprocated by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
Dureza explained that the President declared the ceasefire last July 25 in order to "stop violence on the ground, safeguard the citizenry and provide an enabling environment for the resumption of peace negotiation."
Dureza said Duterte was expecting that the National Democratic Front (NDF) would "respond accordingly" and reciprocate the truce.
But the NDF said the following day, July 26, that they could not order a similar ceasefire pending written orders from its leader.
In response, Dureza said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and PNP wrote NDF leaders in the Netherlands about how they would carry on with a ceasefire.
Dureza noted "there was still no declaration from them [NDF]" until Wednesday when a firefight erupted between the AFP civilian auxiliary and the CPP's armed wing, the New People's Army, in Davao Del Norte.
The encounter killed a civilian auxiliary force member and wounded three others.
The President then gave the communist group until Thursday to explain why the gunfight happened in the midst of his ceasefire declaration, Dureza said.
Receiving only silence from the NDF, the President gave the group an ultimatum of until 5 p.m. of Saturday to issue its own ceasefire declaration.
Dureza said the final deadline lapsed with no word from the NDF, but the President "still patiently waited."
In the meantime, he said "disturbing messages" from the NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Command claimed the government's unilateral ceasefire was "non-existent."
READ: NPA command blames military for Davao del Norte ambush
He said the rebels also blamed the AFP for "sabotaging" the truce.
"Its leadership also belittled the efforts of the President , saying that he could not dictate on the revolutionaries," Dureza added.
At 7 p.m. Saturday, the President cancelled the truce, "knowing that an unanswered ceasefire declaration was not for the best interest of the nation," Dureza said.
He said it was only an hour after that the NDF claimed it was already supposed to call for a ceasefire.
READ: Sison slams 'volatile' Duterte for scrapping ceasefire
"From the above, it is very clear that the President walked the extra mile for peace. And no doubt, he will still continue to do so at any given opportunity," Dureza said.
The peace adviser said he will make his corresponding recommendations to the President and the whole Cabinet at their meeting on Monday.
Despite recent developments, Dureza and CPP founder Jose Ma. Sison earlier said the resumption of formal peace talks in Oslo, Norway would push through as scheduled on August 20.
The NPA is believed to have fewer than 4,000 gunmen at present, down from a peak of 26,000 in the 1980s, according to the military.
But it retains support among the poor in rural areas, and its forces regularly kill police or troops while extorting money from local businesses and politicians. -- With a report from Agence France-Presse