BAYAN Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate said the lifting of the respective unilateral ceasefire of both Philippine Government and New People’s Army should not mean a stop on peace negotiations between the two panels, instead push to address the roots of armed conflict.

President Rodrigo Duterte ordered on Friday, February 3, the lifting of the government’s unilateral truce that he declared in August last year.

Duterte, who made the announcement at the launching of the Solar Powered Irrigation System Pilot Area in North Cotabato, lifted the ceasefire after nearly 20 attacks perpetrated by the rebels over the past four days, leaving six soldiers dead. Three others were abducted.

The NPA, meanwhile, announced on Wednesday truce withdrawal effective February 10 following the lack of action of the government to release over 400 political prisoners including sick and elderly, and alleged harassments perpetrated by militiamen masquerading in their “Oplan Bayanihan” programs in Mindanao's remote areas.

Zarate, in the statement sent to SunStar Davao Friday, February 3, called on both panels as well as their respective working groups and committees to focus in the crafting of an agreement on socio-economic reforms which is the crux and the most crucial part of the peace process.

“The tackling of the other substantive agenda on political and constitutional reforms and the end of hostilities and disposition of forces can continue even in the absence of a ceasefire, as proven during the time of former President Fidel Ramos, when 12 major agreements were forged by the parties, including the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law,” he said.

He added Bayan Muna calls for both Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines to proceed with February 22 scheduled meeting in Utrich, Netherlands, to discuss the issue of ceasefire and the release of political detainees, particularly the sickly and the elderly.

“The absence of a ceasefire should not be taken as a signal for the agents of state for a renewed violation of human rights,” Zarate said. (with a report from VR/Ruth Abbey Gita/Sunstar Philippines)