Duterte tirade may adversely affect talks–Agcaoili

NOORDWIJK AAN ZEE, The Netherlands—The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said President Rodrigo’s latest tirade against them may have adverse effects on the peace negotiations.

NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said they are still studying all the possible implications of Duterte’s statement, adding “it will be problematic for people here (NDFP negotiators and consultants) to go home just to be arrested.”

In his speech during the 119th anniversary of the Philippine Navy in Davao City earlier today, Duterte said he is warning the leaders (of the Communist Party of the Philippines [CPP]) not to come home from the aborted fifth round of formal talks in this city.

“I will arrest all of you and throw you to the slammer. I will imprison you and all the elderly I will arrest you again,” Duterte said.

“And if needed, you will just die there inside the prison.  You know you cannot run anymore,” he added.

Agcaoili said NDFP legal advisers are looking for ways to ensure the safety of the consultants.

“When the consultants were given visas, it was made clear to them they should not seek asylum (in Europe).  With this new development, they may be forced to do so.  But it would have to be their personal decision,” Agcaoili said.

The fifth round of formal negotiations scheduled on May 27 to April 1 in this city was aborted when the GRP insisted on a joint bilateral ceasefire and a retraction of the CPP’s directive to the NPA to further intensify its attacks against government forces in light of Duterte’s martial law declaration in Mindanao.

GRP may declare unilateral ceasefire

Agcaoili made clear the NDFP would not be forced into declaring a unilateral ceasefire in light of Duterte’s outburst.

“If the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) wants, they can declare a unilateral ceasefire with the revolutionary forces. Then we can consider it favorably,” he said.

“In doing so, the GRP would be making it very clear the target of martial law in Mindanao is only the Maute group.  They would be making it very clear the New People’s Army is not a target,” Agcaoili said.

The NDFP repeatedly said the CPP’s order to the NPA to further intensify its military operations against the Armed Forces of the Philippines was merely a reaction to GRP defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s statement the NPA may be among the targets of martial law in Mindanao.

The CPP for its part cited Lorenzana’s retraction as “empty and self-contradicted by his consequent order for the military to go against the NPA,” as their reason for not rescinding its own order to its armed wing.

The group said that even as Duterte’s martial law declaration covers only Mindanao, all GRP military units and police forces have gone on red or full alert in North Luzon, Central Luzon, the National Capital Region, Bicol Region, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Negros and Panay.

“They have imposed their threatening armed presence in public places, parked tanks in government offices and roadsides. Checkpoints have been set up as well in Tacloban City on the utterly ridiculous reason of ‘solidarity with martial law in Mindanao,’” the CPP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva/Featured photo by Viory Schellekens)