PRESIDENT Rody Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire during his first State of the Nation Address (Sona). One of the highlights of his Sona, this declaration was crucial to his peace initiative with the Communist Left.

Immediately after the Sona, the AFP ordered the suspension of all offensive operations against the communist rebels.

Even before his inaugural, then president-elect Duterte talked about his desire to end the war with the Communists. This was his first point when he appeared before thousands of Cebuanos during the thanksgiving at SRP exactly a month before his Sona.

President Duterte likewise showed several goodwill gestures like inviting militant rally leaders to Malacañang on July 1 and the Batasang Pambansa after he delivered his Sona on July 25.

At this point, I sensed from online conversations that the open and legal militant Left along with the leaders and consultants abroad are enthusiastic about the prospect of peace.

I even got word of a recent conference in Davao of how underground cadres could return to the mainstream in case of a peaceful political settlement.

But alas, just two days after the unilateral ceasefire, a New People’s Army (NPA) unit ambushed government militia in Kapalong, Davao del Norte. One Cafgu element was killed and several others were hurt.

The ambush angered President Duterte, prompting him to issue an ultimatum for an explanation of what happened.

When his 5 p.m. deadline last Saturday passed, the President lifted the ceasefire.

In an interview with ANC, CPP founder Jose Maria Sison said the Communist leadership in the country had already planned to announce a truce at 8 in the evening. But with Duterte’s lifting of the ceasefire, he said nothing can be done about it. He expressed exasperation with the deadline and the tactics Duterte is dealing them.

I disagree with Joma, though.

While we can see from afar Duterte’s ire, I sense sincerity from both sides to resolve the war that has raged for decades now. I trust that cooler heads from both sides are already trying to bridge the gap.

On one hand, I believe the President should consider the difficulty of the underground leadership to meet and respond to the unfolding situation in contrast to that of Malacañang.

On the other hand, the Communist leadership should question the decision of the NPA unit to ambush the Cafgus.

Even if the government militias tried to provoke the revolutionaries, the latter should have displayed their higher political and ideological consciousness.

An armed encounter should consider the political situation and the direction of the whole movement. There is something wrong if revolutionaries in the hinterlands are not monitoring even at least the President’s Sona. With the President’s unilateral ceasefire, the concerned NPA unit should have just monitored whatever violations the undisciplined Cafgu elements were doing.

They should have refrained from engaging in military action that places the Communist movement’s negotiating position at a disadvantage.

With these thoughts, somebody at the back of my mind is whispering, are both the government and rebels ready for peace? There are more difficult hurdles ahead and sinister forces out to derail the momentum. But it seems both panels are back on square one.

Still, I am hopeful that both government and the Communist rebels can forge a peaceful settlement that not even strong extremists cannot wreck.

(@anol_cebu in Twitter)