No serious talks since 2017, Reds say of Duterte’s decision against peace negotiations

Who is surprised with President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to no longer hold peace talks with the Left? Not us, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said.

“We are not surprised with Duterte’s declaration. All-out war had been his policy since 2017,” the CPP said in a statement Tuesday, April 28.

Responding to the President’s latest statement, the CPP said Duterte based his latest decision on complete lies, adding Duterte himself knows that the New People’s Army (NPA) does not steal from the masses.

“The masses give to the NPA (New People’s Army) even without being asked,” the CPP said.

Duterte was known to be among local government officials to have donated to the NPA when he was Davao City mayor, especially during anniversary celebration of the CPP and the guerrilla army.

In his latest public address to report on his government’s coronavirus response, Duterte said there is no more peace talks to talk about.

“I am not and will never be ready for any round of talks because the NPA, the Communist Party of the Philippines, has (sic) no respect either for their spoken word or in their deed of killing soldiers who are on humanitarian missions.

Earlier, Duterte pointed that that the NPA ambushed and killed government soldiers in Maria. Aurora town in Aurora province he claimed were escorting relief aid workers.

The CPP however have repeatedly denied Duterte’s allegation, saying all clashes between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the NPA had been instigated by the state troopers.

The CPP has pointed out that at least three Philippine Army spot reports said state troopers either were conducting “military patrols” when they chanced upon NPA guerrillas or have been alerted by “concerned citizens” of the presence of the Red fighters in the area, prompting them to conduct so-called pursuit operations.

“For example, when the AFP attacked a NPA encampment in Carabalan, Himamaylan, Negros Occidental last April 19, were the soldiers securing the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) that was 10 kilometers away from the clash site?” CPP information officer Marco Valbuena asked.

“The people are already hungry from the lockdown but only war is in Duterte’s mind,” he added.

The CPP added that Duterte’s ceasefire declaration of March 19 to April 15 was a fraud.

“Since March 16, based on our monitoring, the AFP has now deployed troops in more than 400 barangays in 150 towns, with orders to wage total war against NPA units in their areas,” the CPP said.

The CPP said its policy during the corona virus pandemic is to facilitate, not prevent, the entry of relief and assistance for the people.

The underground group said that it is ready to cooperate with the DSWD at local government units, claiming that even social work secretary and retired general Rolando Bautista could not prevent them to partner with the NPA in distributing goods in far-flung areas that only so-called revolutionary governments are in power.

Duterte, on the other hand, is using the “new normal” during the coronavirus lockdown and the NPA as convenient excuses to declare martial law and impose “a fascist dictatorship,” the CPP alleged.

‘Deranged’ Duterte

CPP founding chairperson and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison for his part said that Duterte has never been interested in serious peace negotiations in the first place.

“Duterte is mentally, politically and morally deranged. He needs the peace talks more than the revolutionary movement,” Sison said in a statement.

Sison added that he agrees with the CPP that by declaring he is against peace talks, Duterte is “scapegoating” the Left “to advance his scheme of full-scale Marcos-type fascist dictatorship.”

“Unwittingly, [Duterte] makes it clear that the Filipino people and their revolutionary forces are justified to intensify their struggle for national liberation and democracy through the armed revolution,” Sison said.

Church plea

Meanwhile, a group of religious leaders expressed sadness over Duterte’s decision to close the peace negotiations with the NDFP.

The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) said that in the very uncertain times brought about by the coronavirus, an escalation of the armed conflict with NPA and the imposition of martial law will be very costly, not only to the warring parties, but for the Filipino people as a whole.

“We are also troubled by the President’s remarks that the military has rejected the results of the backchannel talks that Sec. Silvestre Bello had commenced with his NDFP counterparts last December to restart the peace negotiations. The President and the military appear to be rejecting the peace process with the NDFP,” the PEPP said.

Bello was the former chairperson of the government negotiating panel with the NDFP. He had been asked to represent the government in backchannel talks since last December but his panel has yet to be formally reconstituted and his team officially reappointed.

“We call on the government to focus its efforts and funds for medical and socio-economic solutions to heal the nation rather than imposing martial law and spending for counter-insurgency, and an all-out war. We also call on both parties to declare an extension of their unilateral ceasefires until May 15 and follow these ceasefire declarations to the letter,” the PEPP said.

While the CPP extended its unilateral ceasefire declaration to April 30, Duterte refused to reciprocate when the government’s truce order expired last April 15.

The PEPP statement was signed by PEPP co chairperson and Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, PEPP co-chairperson and Anglican Church Bishop Rex Reyes Jr., Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches National President  and Bishop Noel A. Pantoja, National Council of Churches in the Philippines general secretary and Bishop Reuel Norman Marigza, Office of Women and Gender Commission – Association of Major Religious Superiors Women Sr. Mary John Mananzan, and PEPP head of secretariat and Bishop Emeritus Deogracias Iñiguez Jr. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)