Appeals to Reds for patience
PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has expressed willingness to resume peace talks with the communists, but appealed to the rebels for patience, citing the need to consult other branches of government.
The President made the announcement in a speech during the New People’s Army’s (NPA) release of a hostage, policeman George Rupinta, on Saturday in Davao City.
“If you want to resume the talks, I am not averse to the idea, but let me sort out first the other branches of government. I have appointed [members of the]Left, released around 25 political prisoners, but there are things which I cannot concede because I am not the only one in control of this government,” Duterte said.
Duterte had appointed activists Judy Taguiwalo and Rafael Mariano to the Cabinet last year to jumpstart the peace talks, but they were rejected by the Commission on Appointments for the posts of social welfare secretary and agrarian reform secretary, respectively.
Talks bogged down following the NPA attack on a convoy of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) in North Cotabato. Days later on July 22, Duterte cancelled peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
“It would be wrong to say that I am the one who torpedoed the peace process. If that was the case, why would I go into a rigmarole of appointing you every time they are rejected or bypassed by Congress? I want your nominees [in the Cabinet]because I have to hear both sides. The problem is, while we are talking, there’s full of threats about countryside positioning, deployment of New People’s Army soldiers, among others,” Duterte pointed out.
The President was further incensed when the CPP ordered its armed wing, the NPA, to intensify its attacks on government forces in response to the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, which the communists said was “against the people.”
“If I step on your shoes, I apologize. But when you ambushed the presidential convoy, you did not apologize. This won’t be solved by being hot-headed,” Duterte added.
The President then appealed for patience among the communist ranks.
“I share power with Congress and the Supreme Court. So you (the communists), should not ask for something in a hurry and for those which are not acceptable to the other branches of government. That would be tough,” the President said.
“We should have a serious talk. Do not be in a hurry because we have been fighting for the last 50 years, and you just cannot ignore that period of violence and killing on both sides, as well as consider also the position of the military who invested and the police, who invested lives there,” he added.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella echoed the President’s call on Sunday.
“In spite of President Duterte’s firm position to protect the nation from violence and terrorism, his fundamental goal is sustainable and lasting peace; which in this case begins with addressing the social injustice as the historical root of conflict,” Abella said.
“To resume talks necessitates President Duterte to consult first with the members of his security cluster, considering the many lives lost, civilian and government property destroyed before returning to the negotiating table with the CPP/NPA/NDFP,” he said.