WITH all the good wishes and prayers of so many the planned resumption of peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) in the Netherlands, has created more confusion and uncertainty than confidence in a peace agreement finally being forged.
Over the weekend, word came through that the opening of the talks on Sunday, April 2, had been moved to Monday, April 3, because of President Duterte’s fresh instructions to the government panel for the negotiations.
Confidence has been shaken because of the diametrically opposite statements issued by the communist side and the government side on the eve of the talks. It has also been impaired by continued NPA attacks on government forces.
High on the list of concerns is whether the New People‘s Army (NPA), the armed component of the communist insurgency, supports the talks. It issues its own statements separate from the CPP-NDF. It launched attacks on government forces on the eve of the negotiations.
Also worrisome is a puzzling claim of the NDF that it has a revolutionary government operating in the country. As if to show proof of life and potency, the NDF said its revolutionary government has indicted former President Benigno S. Aquino III and other former officials for crimes against humanity and other human rights violations.
This led the government to shore up official security for President Aquino, to avert any attacks on his person. It should shock or amuse government peace negotiators to discover that they are talking to a group that claims to have its own government within the Philippine republic.
Consequently, military and defense officials have considerably toughened their stance against the communist insurgency and their position on various demands of the CPP-NDF in the peace talks.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana last Saturday branded the NPA as thugs and terrorists a day before the resumption of peace talks.
“I call upon all peace-loving Filipinos to resist these thugs, these terrorists who have brought nothing but misery to the Filipino people in the past 48 years,” Lorenzana said.
Meanwhile, presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said that President Duterte has reminded the government’s peace panel of the conditions that the CPP should meet before the signing of a bilateral ceasefire agreement.
Abella said there are four requirements for such an agreement:
1.The government shall not recognize any territorial claims of the CPP-NPA-NDF;
2.The CPP-NPA-NDF should stop the collection of revolutionary taxes;
3. The CPP-NPA-NDF should stop the conduct of extortion, extraction and arson activities; and
4.The CPP-NPA-NDF shall release all prisoners.
The Armed Forces believes a signed bilateral ceasefire agreement will show if the CPP still has control over all NPA units. The military has good reason to doubt that the CPP leadership still such control, because of past incidents of violence when the communists were supposed to have a unilateral ceasefire in place.
These conditions make sense. President Duterte is right when he declares that the government will not continue the talks with the NDF, without a signed bilateral ceasefire agreement.
The fact that the talks will resume should not impugn the correctness of this demand. It should rather impel our negotiators to press the CPP-NDF to prove its control over the NPA.
Absent that proof, the peace talks cannot move forward with just illusions in hopes of success. It needs concrete progress to build upon. Otherwise, peace will not be found.