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New Philippine president announces cease-fire with communist rebels

By Allen Cone
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (center) visited the country's Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao last week. On Monday, he called for a cease-fire with communist rebels. Photo courtesy of Anadolu Agency
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (center) visited the country's Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao last week. On Monday, he called for a cease-fire with communist rebels. Photo courtesy of Anadolu Agency

MANILA, July 25 (UPI) -- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared an immediate cease-fire Monday in the government's 48-year battle with communist rebels.

"To the (rebels), let us end these decades of ambuscades and skirmishes," he said during his first national address. "We are going nowhere. And it is getting bloodier by the day."

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The government of the Philippines is preparing to resume official peace talks Aug. 20-27 in Oslo with the Communist Party of the Philippines, National Democratic Party and the armed New People's Army.

"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," Duterte said.

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The Communist Party of the Philippines was founded in 1968, and since 1969 has led a guerilla war against the government, called the "People's War." In 2009, the party leadership announced it was transitioning to an offensive stage, and would succeed in overthrowing the government within 10 years.

"We express our willingness to go to the negotiating table," said Duterte in his speech, "and yet we load our guns, fix our sights, pull the trigger. It is both ironic and tragic -- and it is endless.

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"That is why, I reach out to you, to all of you today. To our Muslim brothers, let us end the centuries of mistrust and warfare."

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Duterte's cease-fire doesn't include Abu Sayyaf, the terrorist group that has been operating in the southern Philippines, and recently kidnapped several Malaysian men. He has said he wants the Philippines' armed forces to "crush" Abu Sayyaf.

In his speech, he also had strong words for drug dealers.

"We will not stop until the last drug lord, the last financier, and the last pusher have surrendered or been put behind bars or below the ground, if they so wish," he said.

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According to the president's office, the National Police reported a 13-percent decline in the crime rate since Duterte won the presidency on May 27. He assumed office on June 30.

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