Keep talking, please

4

TOOTS OPLE

Nobody wins when peace negotiations collapse–not the rebels, not the government and most especially, not the people. It is vital for both the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front to maintain the peace table, and find ways to regain common objectives to keep moving it forward.

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The Philippines has one of the longest insurgency problems in Asia. It has kept many villages frozen in time, with hardly any new business coming their way. Most of these conflict-affected zones are agrarian communities, scarred with injustices passed on from generation to generation.

Their economic liberation can only come from one source: genuine peace.

With the election of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, hope soared on the peace front. He personally knew Joma Sison. The founders of the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front were his friends. Every extemporaneous speech delivered the same refrain–he abhors conflict and would do everything possible to bring about genuine peace on the negotiating table radiating outwards to every rebel stronghold.

Over the weekend, President Duterte announced that the Philippine government was terminating the peace talks with the communist rebels. “I am not interested in arguing with them,” the President told the media. He lamented that peace with the CPP/NPA/NDF may be impossible to obtain within this generation.

This is truly unfortunate because both parties were, initially, making the right moves.

Within his first six months in office, President Duterte had appointed nominees from the NDF as members of his Cabinet, namely, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano and Labor Undersecretary Joel Maglungsod. The chair of the government peace panel with the NDF, former congressman Silvestre Bello III is the current Secretary of Labor and Employment.

This was a bold move that even the most conservative Filipinos lauded for its audacity. Why not give those who have been criticizing every administration from Marcos to Aquino a chance to serve? So far, these Cabinet appointees have demonstrated their willingness to be good allies of the President and the very poor.

With the scuttling of the talks, will these appointees give up their positions? I hope not. For the streets are where noise is made but let’s face it, how many effigies can really take the place of a private conversation with the President? I believe that the presence of these NDF-nominated officials in the Cabinet would continue to enrich high-level discussions about anti-poverty programs, especially in the countryside.

The NDF is an organization steeped in the art of propaganda. They wouldn’t have lasted this long had they not been persistent, if not excellent, in selling their ideology, and connecting to enough voters, especially in the hinterlands, to land seats in Congress. Now they are faced with a President who is just as good, if not bolder, in strategic and tactical communications.

In the current propaganda war, the President is winning, hands down. For one, the decision to lift the ceasefire last Wednesday did not even come from CPP founder and chief peace negotiator Joma Sison. It emanated from a certain Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos, a spokesman of the National Operations Command of the New People’s Army. The failure of President Duterte to release all political prisoners was given as the main reason for the NPA’s lifting of the ceasefire, which shall commence on February 10, according to “Ka Oris.”

What is urgent is for the social protection and anti-poverty programs of our government to take root and flourish in old and new conflict-affected areas. Let us prepare for the bloodbath to follow, and cut the ropes of social and political injustice that have made peace a rare commodity in the countryside. If the NDF and its parallel units are not prepared to give up the ideological battle in favor of genuine peace, then so be it.

Government must not be seen as giving up the war to end injustice.

Emotions are high, and wounds run deep, as both sides bury their dead. Somehow, both parties must find their way back to the peace table. The people are tired of violence and the disruption that comes with it. We cannot be a country constantly weighed down and interrupted by bursts of gunfire between our own citizens for an ideology that no one now really needs to kill or die for.

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4 Comments

  1. How they can keep on talking when the Reds are demanding unrealistic demands? They wanted everything to their advantage and PDU30 finally figured it out that the Filipino people will be at disadvantaged if he gives the Reds what they want. The President did the right thing, to discontinue the talk and should plot his next move against the NPA. What he should do is to declare Martial Law and concentrate his firepower against the NPA’s, Abu Sayyaf’s, ISIS, and all terrorists elements and organizations, large and small. The NPA’s are tactical minded lazy criminals and they should be met with potent military force wherever they operate. Why not double the number of military? The Department of National Defense (DND) should develop guidelines for testing IQ’s of new recruits and improve military training, such as basic and advance military training. In other words, we should have a better trained and disciplined force to counter these low life terrorists. What the military needs is to have a better battle training, doctrine, and concepts when fighting with these bad elements.

  2. Sad development indeed.How many more must die? In a recent trip to Phnom Penh and Siem reap, i got to talk to the locals. You wouldn’t think that Cambodians, being very nice people, would have the infamous killing fields
    in the 70’s which roughly killed 1.5-3M people out of the estimated 9M population. I asked our hotel receptionists
    during some light moments if there are are still wars in Cambodia. With a wry smile on their faces expressing somewhat a sigh of relief, they said: Fini! (french for finished). Yes, having been colonized by the French, Cmbodians still speak sprinkling of the colonial language.
    And yet, the collectivization and democracy that the communists promised was a colossal failure.

    Present day Cambodia is booming. From a layman’s view, i can see new structures being built in the capital.
    Tourists are pouring in. They have even capitalized on those killling fields and places of torture and death to become educational centers of hope and peace for tourists and all humanity.

    Pity the nation like ours which cannot pursue and realize peace and cannot vanquished a ” spent force ”
    like the communists.

    When can we actually say the same thing in our country?

  3. DU30 has a vision of peace throughout the PH. DU30 wants to make the government inclusive of all segments of our society. He is willing to discuss peace. But the NPA has demanded too much and called off the cease fire. DU30 is a man who takes threats only one way. He responds with force when talks have failed. That is the correct thing to do.

    • Yeah, and it appears that the NPA has even been the instigators of the failure; they were discovered to be still collecting their revolutionary fees even with the ceasefire in place.