PHILIPPINE President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday announces an unprecedented unilateral ceasefire with communist rebels during his first State of the Nation Address which lasted for 92 minutes, the longest in the country’s history.
President Duterte’s surprised audience at the Batasan Pambansa broke into cheers after he announced the unilateral ceasefire after which he expressed hope that the communist rebels would respond accordingly. He said the ceasefire is effective immediately.
The president said “all of us want peace, not the peace of the dead but the peace of the living. We express our willingness and readiness to go to the negotiating table, and yet we load our guns, fix our sights, pull the trigger. It is both ironic and tragic–and it is endless. Well, we extol the bravery and heroism of our soldiers. Kayo, the rebels, do the same for the rebels and fighters. What I see instead are the widows and the orphans and I feel their pain and grief. And no amount of cash assistance or the number of medals can compensate the loss of a human life. Sorrow cuts across every stratum of society. It cuts deeply and the pain lasts forever.”
“That is why, I reach out to you, to all of you today. To our Muslim brothers, let us find, let us end the centuries of this mistrust and warfare. To the CPP/NPA/NDF, let us end these decades of ambuscades and skirmishes. We are going nowhere. And it is getting bloodier by the day,” he added.
“To immediately stop violence on the ground, restore peace in the communities and provide an enabling environment conducive to the resumption of the peace talks, I am now announcing a unilateral ceasefire with the CPP/NPA/NDF effective immediately and call on our fellow Filipinos in the National Democratic Front and its forces to respond accordingly.”
“Let me make this appeal to you. “If we cannot, as yet, love one another, then in God’s name, let us not hate each other too much,” so it was said. I say the same to you today,” Duterte said.
“We will strive to have a permanent and lasting peace before my term ends. That is my goal, that is my dream.”
The communist led New People’s Army has been waging a communist revolution for more than four decades which left more than 30,000 people dead. Its acknowledged leader, Jose Ma. Sison, is in a self imposed exile in The Netherlands.
Duterte warns those from the previous administration of the day of reckoning
At the same time Duterte vows to go after erring officials of the previous administration even as he stressed that he is not into finger pointing.
“We cannot move forward if we allow the past to pull us back. Finger-pointing is not the way (a clear reference to the habit of former President Benigno Simeon Aquino III of blaming others and the past for the present ills of the government). That is why I will not waste precious time dwelling on the sins of the past or blaming those who are perceived to be responsible for the mess that we are in and suffering from,” Duterte said adding that “Lest I be misunderstood, let me say clearly, that those who betrayed the people’s trust shall not go unpunished and they will have their day in court. And if the evidence warrants, they will have their day of reckoning, too.”
Former President BS Aquino III is not present during President Duterte’s SONA, reportedly preferring to watch the event in the comfort of his home in Times Street, Quezon City and avoid the company of Ms. Arroyo, his predecessor and now Pampanga lawmaker whom he charged with plunder.
Ms. Arroyo was detained for nearly six years and was released only last week after the Supreme Court admitted the demurrer to evidence filed by her lawyer, which was earlier junked by the Sandiganbayan.
The high tribunal, in reversing the decision of the anti-graft court, agreed with Ms. Arroyo’s lawyer that the evidence presented by the government is weak.
“I wish to assure everyone though that vindictiveness is not in my system. Just like you and I, all, equal treatment and equal protection are what I ask for our people,” Duterte stressed
“But we must have the courage to fight for what we believe in, undeterred by the fear of failing or losing. Indeed, courage knows no limits, cowardice does.”
Vows to continue campaign against illegal drugs, criminality and corruption
Moreover, Duterte vowed to continue his crusade against illegal drugs, criminality and corruption. Stressing that Human Rights cannot be used to destroy the country, he directed the police and the military to continue what they are doing but at the same time reminded them that their duty is to uphold human dignity.
“Do your job and you will have my support, abuse your authority and there will be hell to pay,” Duterte said. He also urged the National Police Commission to complete its investigation of erring policemen.
President Duterte also pledged to run a “clean” and efficient government. He also promised to simply taxation laws and make them equitable.
He also reiterated to Congress the need for special powers to resolve the traffic and transportation woes of the country, especially in Metro Manila. Nevertheless, he adds that he could do his job without it although at a much slower pace should Congress decides not to grant him special powers.
Among the president’s proposal to ease traffic in Metro Manila is the expansion and improvement of the rail system, the introduction of the bullet train service from Clark to Metro Manila, the removal of colorum vehicles in the streets and bus terminals in Metro Manila, the improvement of the Pasig River ferry system and decongestion of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Firm on West Philippine Sea
The president also said he will firmly uphold the decision of the United Nations Hague Arbitral Tribunal favoring the country on its dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea otherwise known as South China Sea.
“With regard to the West Philippine Sea, otherwise known as (South) China Sea, we strongly affirms and respect the outcome of the case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration as an important contribution to the ongoing efforts to pursue a peaceful resolution and management of our disputes.”
The Arbitral Tribunal ruled on 12th July that the Philippines has an exclusive sovereign right over the West Philippine Sea effectively voiding the Chinese nine dash line which claimed almost all of South China Sea as its territory.