PRESIDENT TERMINATES CEASEFIRE, PEACE TALKS WITH REDS
BY ROGER M. BALANZA
President Rodrigo Duterte said Philippine communist rebels are terrorists as he terminated on February 4 the government’s unilateral ceasefire with rebels in the midst of peace talks aiming to end the 50-year old communist insurgency.
The termination was in reaction to the insurgents’ premature termination of their own unilateral ceasefire over various accusations leveled against the Duterte administration in relation to the peace talks.
Duterte said he is also terminating the peace negotiations with the communist rebels and sees another 50 years of battle between government and the insurgents.
Panels of the Philippine government and the insurgents have met in peace negotiations last year in Oslo, Norway and in Rome, Italy this month.
Duterte said he has called on members of the government panel to “pack their bags” and return to the country.
The President said leftist leaders incarcerated in Philippine jails for rebellion and other crimes who were released on safe conduct passes to act as consultants in peace talks abroad would now be arrested and returned to jail.
Unless there are “compelling reasons,” Duterte said the government would not resume negotiations with the rebels during his term. His term ends in 2022.
Duterte’s termination of the ceasefire and the peace talk came as a major drawback to the ongoing negotiations for peace with the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF).
While Duterte was bent on seeking peace, the triad running the Philippine communist insurgency triggered Duterte’s turnaround from his promise to reach a peace agreement with the communist rebels who are seen as a major roadblock to the country’s progress.
Days after the end on January 25 of the Third Round of the peace talks between panels of both sides in Italy, Rome, the NPA, the armed wing of the communist triad, announced the termination of of its own unilateral ceasefire declared in August last year.
In a statement, NPA spokesman Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos accused Duterte of reneging on his promise to release about 200 political prisoners held in Philippine jails. Ka Oris also adds that the military is taking advantage of the ceasefire by encroaching into rebel territories while the peace negotiations are ongoing.
Duterte said the communist rebels are making excessive demands and reacted by terminating the government’s own unilateral ceasefire and the peace negotiation.
I took the extra mile to make peace with the communists, said Duterte, who initiated resumption of peace negotiations with the communists on the first days of his assumption into the presidency last year. As a confidence building move, Duterte has appointed known leftists to key government positions.
You want another 50 years of war? said Duterte as he announced the premature end of the government’s unilateral ceasefire that was planned to be in effect until both sides reach a final agreement.
While he did not declare an all-out war, Duterte said he has ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to resume fighting the “terrorists.” Guns of the AFP and the NPA had been silenced by the unilateral ceasefires. With Duterte beating the war drums, there would now be expected sporadic clashes between the troopers and communist rebels.
Days before the NPA announced the termination of its unilateral ceasefire and before it came into effect on January 10, communist rebels attacked military troopers in Surigao, Bukidnon and Davao Oriental.
Duterte accused the NPA of treachery.
They announced publicly that they were lifting the ceasefire order but they were killing my soldiers and policemen in the meantime. Where’s the honor in that? You don’t have respect for your enemy. In the field of battle, there is always honor, Duterte said during his visit in Camp Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro City on February 5 at the wake of three soldiers killed by the NPA in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon.
The NPAs are terrorists, said Duterte. The NPA has heavy presence in many parts of the country especially in Northern and Southern Mindanao, running their fronts with revolutionary taxes from companies. Duterte said the NPA burn equipment of companies who refuse to pay up.
They wreak havoc on the economy, said Duterte at the wake of the slain troopers.
The government and the communist rebels declared separate unilateral ceasefires in August as formal peace negotiations began in Norway. The ceasefires were to end on January 10.
Panels of both side are were supposed to meet anew soon for the Fourth Round of talks where a bilateral ceasefire waa supposed to be discussed.
Duterte has taken the communist insurgency, and the Muslim insurgency in Nindanao, as major drawbacks to the country’s peace and order and economic development and has vowed to craft separate peace agreements with the CPP/NPA/NDF and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (NDF) and other Mindanao Moro groups within his 6-year administration.
The peace pact with Moro groups in Mindanao is in the final stage with the creation of a Transition Commission that includes the MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), that led the Moro rebellion for decades. The Transition Commission will oversee the establishment of a Bangsamoro juridical entity covering Muslim-dominated areas in Mindanao.