SENATORS from the majority and minority blocs, as well as the military, threw their support behind President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to cancel talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF), insisting that communist rebels must show sincerity by halting attacks on government troops.
Sen. Gregorio Honasan 2nd, chairman of the Senate Committee on Peace, Unification and Reconciliation said the government must make sure it was talking peace with the right group, or the one with control over communist rebels.
“We cannot talk and fight at the same time,” Honasan said.
Malacañang on Wednesday said the President had told the government peace panel that formal talks with the NDF, the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), would not resume until the New People’s Army (NPA) stops attacks on the military.
Informal talks with the NDF were supposed to be held this month, but the President decided to cancel it following Wednesday’s attack on a convoy of the Presidential Security Group by NPA rebels.
The NPA, the armed wing of the CCP, is also being tagged in the deaths of two Marines in Palawan Wednesday morning.
Honasan said: “If you have no control and do not condemn the attacks, why are we talking? This is bad faith. This is a joke.”
Sen. Francis Pangilinan, a member of the Senate minority bloc, also expressed support for the President’s cancellation of back-channel talks with the CPP and NDF.
“We support the position taken by the President as a means of ensuring both sides deal with one another in good faith,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he also agreed with the move of Duterte in calling off the planned informal negotiations, but he did not elaborate.
Political analyst Ramon Casiple said the NDF must show sincerity in the peace talks for it to succeed.
Casiple, executive director the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, said the NDF must clarify its position on the attacks launched by its armed wing, and if it had knowledge of these attacks.
He said the President was right in cancelling the talks until such time the NDF was able to show seriousness in confidence-building.
“The NDF should clarify its intentions in intensifying attacks during peace negotiations and in the light of the Marawi crisis. As in the past, the question here is sincerity and confidence building,” he added.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) also supported the decision of President Duterte to suspend the fifth round of peace negotiations with the NDF, noting attacks on government security forces committed by the NPA.
Col. Edgard Arevalo, the AFP public affairs chief, said on Thursday the military welcomed the decision of the government to cancel talks with the NDF, saying the rebels “have never been sincere” in attaining peace in the country.
“Clearly, the NPA have no intention to genuinely pursue peace negotiations but merely to buy time to consolidate to recruit and beef up their ranks,” Arevalo told reporters in a news conference.
“All these are indicators of the New People’s Army’s propensity to take advantage of crucial situations like this in order for them to perpetuate their ends…They have no plans of stopping extortion, in extorting enormous sums of money from companies,” he added.
The CPP earlier ordered its armed wing to intensify attacks against government forces as a signal of resisting the martial law declaration of President Duterte over Mindanao.
“Even before martial law, they (NPA) have always been accusing the AFP of violating the ceasefire or violating the peace negotiations. Ever since, the heads of the NPA have commanded their rebels to intensify their attacks,” he said.
with DEMPSEY REYES