National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Benito Tiamzon. (Zea Io Ming C. Capistrano/

ROME, Italy – The recent clash between the military and guerrilla fighters in Southern Philippines makes the unilateral ceasefire declared by the Communist Party of the Philippines “more untenable.

An NPA fighter was confirmed dead while the Armed Forces of the Philippines denied reports that there were eight dead on the side of the government.

The clash happened around 5:00 pm (Philippine time) in Barangay Biangan, Makilala town in North Cotabato.

Read: 8 soldiers, NPA killed in N. Cotabato encounter

National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Benito Tiamzon said even before the incident, they are receiving reports from the grounds that the “clearing operations” by the military is making the ceasefire untenable.

He said the clearing operations were disguised as “peace and development operations.”

“But we all know that it is part of Oplan Bayanihan and the AFP has explicit orders to continue the so-called peace and development operations,” Tiamzon told reporters here on Sunday night.

“Kailangan namin ng malaking reason to continue this unilateral ceasefire na increasingly problematic para sa amin at para doon sa mga taga baryo na nililigalig ng AFP operations tapos nangyari pa yan,” Tiamzon said.

(We need a big reason to continue this unilateral ceasefire that is increasingly problematic for us and for the villagers that are shaken by the AFP’s operations and then this happened)

Tiamzon said they see the sentiments of the NPAs on the grounds as “justified.”

“Kung walang malaking dahilan na maipapakita yung GRP mas malamang na ihinto (If the GRP cannot show us a significant reason to continue the unilateral ceasefire, it might be stopped),” he said.

Push for bilateral ceasefire

For his part, GRP peace panel member Hernani Braganza said the incident would warrant to forge a bilateral ceasefire agreement.

“If it is so, siguro mas kailangan na patibayin yung usapin at commitment namin na pagtibayin lalo yung ceasefire to a bilateral ceasefire,” he said.

(Maybe we need to strengthen the issue and commitment by the Parties to have a bilateral ceasefire.)

Braganza said a unilateral ceasefire has “technically no clear rules.”

“The bilateral is a negotiated ceasefire arrangement between two parties,” he said.

As of Sunday, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza has yet to verify the incidents, according to Braganza.

However, he said that the incident makes it “all the more needed and imperative” to have a bilateral ceasefire with guidelines and mechanisms in place.

“Otherwise each side ( the AFP & the NPA) will have their own reports and accusations favorable to their own version and interest or propaganda line,” he said.

But the NDFP said they are used to “fighting and talking” during the peace negotiations with previous administrations.

The standing unilateral ceasefire declared by both Parties in August last year under the recent administration is seen as the longest ceasefire between Communists and government. This is the first skirmish between the government troops and the NPA.

Rights violations

Thousands of rights violations were documented by human rights group Karapatan and submitted to the government panel.

From August 21 until December 31 last year, Karapatan has documented 10 cases of extrajudicial killings, two cases of enforced disappearance, two cases of torture, 14 cases of frustrated extrajudicial killing, 397 cases of illegal arrest without detention, 14,659 cases of threat/harassment and intimidations, 4,170 cases of threats against civilians due to indiscriminate firing, bombing, artillery fire, etc., 7,841 cases of use of schools, medical, religious and other public places for military purpose, and 1,500 cases of restriction or violent dispersal of public assemblies.

On January 20, two cases of killings were also reported. This happened on the second day of the GRP-NDFP peace talks here.

Farmer Alexander Ceballos was gunned down in Barangay Pandan Silos, in Murcia town Negros Occidental, while indigenous people leader Veronico Lapsay Delamante was also killed in Barangay Caagdianao, Claver, Surigao del Sur province.

Ceballos and Delamante are both leaders of progressive people’s organizations in their local communities.

The NDFP said compliance to the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law is a test to government’s sincerity to the peace talks.

The government panel however said that the government adheres to CARHRIHL.

The signing of the supplemental guidelines on the Joint Monitoring Committee, which is tasked to monitor the implementation of the CARHRIHL was seen as a step to the full operation of the first substantive agenda signed by the NDFP and GRP.(

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