Peace talks have collapsed between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front-Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (NDF-CPP-NPA), with the Reds blaming President Rodrigo Duterte for the breakdown of negotiations.
From his exile in the Netherlands, NDF adviser Luis Jalandoni described the decision of Malacanang to end the talks and arrest communist consultants as an “emotional reaction.”
This came after the NPA said it was withdrawing its unilateral ceasefire, claiming that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) had been encroaching into rebel-held areas. The CPP’s armed wing said the government “has not complied with its obligation to amnesty and release of political prisoners.”
Soon after, Duterte also terminated the government’s unilateral ceasefire, following the killing of AFP soldiers in a series of clashes with rebel forces. He said he had gone out of his way to extend peace to the communists but lamented that “we cannot have a peaceful generation, there will always be a fight.”
In a news report from CNN Philippines, the CPP lashed out at the President and branded him “a
doublespeaking thug who only recognizes his own rules,” adding that “Duterte has gone berserk and upturned the entire peace process facilitated by the Royal Norwegian government.”
The longest-running communist insurgency in the world has been ongoing since the Marcos regime in the late 1960s. Negotiations have failed under five post-EDSA Revolution administrations over the past three decades, but hopes had been high that this time under an avowed Leftist President, the government would be able to hammer out a just and lasting peace with the Reds.
According to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), 40 rounds of talks have been held since 1986 but they always hit snags due to contentious issues on sovereignty, the release of political prisoners and the CPP’s inclusion in the government’s terrorist lists.
More than 1,300 political detainees have been released by previous administrations and 20 agreements have been signed, yet no final peace settlement has been agreed upon.
So far, three rounds of talks have been held since the new government took over in mid-2016 – twice in Norway and the latest in Italy just last month. OPAPP Secretary Jesus Dureza cited the key role of NPA leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon in the “inclusive” negotiations, for which they have been allowed to fly to Oslo where the event was held.
In addition, Duterte appointed four known Leftists to his Cabinet, namely: Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano and National Anti-Poverty Commission Lead Convenor Liza Maza.
But after walking the extra mile in pursuing peace, he is being blamed by the communists for the collapse of the negotiations. Jalandoni even told the media that “it could be possible that the military themselves killed three of their own men in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon so that it could make President Duterte believe that the NPA did it and provoke him into scrapping the peace talks altogether.”
That’s short of saying the President is gullible and the AFP would provoke hostilities so that war would resume between the two sides. This is quite misleading because war is the farthest thing from the minds of the soldiers, who would always be the first to back peace talks with the insurgents.
Why? Because war keeps them away from their families and wastes limited resources that could be better used to professionalize the AFP. War kills soldiers, who would rather help in peacekeeping or humanitarian efforts than fire their guns and kill their fellow Filipinos.
During the time of President Joseph Estrada, he was in the midst of peace negotiations with the communists when they abducted Philippine Army General Victor Obillo and Philippine National Police Chief Inspector Roberto Bernal, who were both non-combatants.
Estrada said such acts show that the NDF-CPP-NPA had abused the government’s goodwill and good faith, resulting in “insulting and demeaning responses from the principals of these armed groups.”
These are the very same principals with whom the current government is dealing, safely ensconced in the comfort of their Utrecht homes. Is it still a productive exercise to continue talking with a bunch of “ballroom-dancing commandoes” who are out of touch with what’s happening on the ground?
And what did members of the peace panel accomplish while they were in Oslo and Rome? Nothing substantial, except for an indefinite ceasefire deal, which the communists continued to violate, anyway.
Worst of all, the President takes most of the flak, while the negotiators seem to be doing nothing to defend him.
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of FINEX. The author is chief financial officer (CFO) of the Asian Center for Legal Excellence and serves as co-chairman of the FINEX Media Affairs Committee.