SENATORS supported the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to cancel peace talks with the communist rebels whom he accused of violating a ceasefire agreement with government following a spate of attacks by the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the insurgents.
Ralph Recto, Francis Escudero and Paolo Bam Aquino 4th said on Wednesday that the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) must honor the ceasefire with government forces.
Sought for reaction on the cancellation of peace talks with CPP-NPA-NDF, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto said: “That’s the call of the President. Ang problema naman talaga nasa sa kaliwa eh (The problem really lies with the Left).”
“The government forces had already declared ceasefire. But they don’t want any ceasefire. I can’t blame the President because many soldiers and policemen had already been killed. Of course, the first job of the commander-in-chief is to protect his soldiers and his policemen. So I understand (the President),” Recto said.
“I hope this is just a snag in the peace talks and will serve to enlighten both sides, especially the CPP-NPA-NDF, that they should stop their attacks and be more flexible in their negotiation positions in order to pave the way for peace,” Escudero said.
Aquino, on the other hand, raised the need for both parties to lay down arms if they waned the peace process to succeed.
“In this case, we had multiple reports on the ground, not just from the military but from the LGUs (local government units) and multiple businesses about the continued attacks of the NPA against them,” he said.
Recto, Escudero, and Aquino are hopeful that the peace process could be saved with backchannel talks.
“If I had my way, be a little more patient and do backchannel talks. But I respect the call of the President. But I am not the President,” said Recto.
Asked whether the CPP-NPA-NDF was really serious to forge a peace deal with the government, Recto said, “That’s our feeling. And the President feels that way. But, why ask me? Ask the CPP-NPA? But that’s a general feeling.”
Escudero said: “I have always been in favor of talking instead of shooting. Nobody wins in a war and innocent civilians will inevitably be caught in the crossfire.”
“In the meantime, I hope the door for peace will remain open, if not at the national level, perhaps in the near future or even at the local level whenever and wherever applicable,” he said.
Aquino reiterated that all peace talks must be done in good faith. We trust the military, of course, to make the necessary readings on the matter. We want peace. But in any type of peace talks, both parties need to be of good faith.”
“I think all of us want peace. But both parties need to come to the table with clean hands. There must be no altercations on the ground during peace talks. If there is a true ceasefire let it happen first and then resume the peace talks,” Aquino added. BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO