BANDILLO | Elusive peace


“2019 can be a year of escalating offensives by the AFP and PNP and intensifying counter-offensives by the NPA,” thus warned Jose Maria Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), now Chief Political Consultant of the NDF,  in an online interview with a national daily  from his base in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Sison argued that  Duterte is now moving into the lame duck years of his six-year term, and that he cannot profitably proclaim martial law nationwide and obtain his fascist dictatorship through state terrorism and charter change to fake federalism.

He also noted that President Duterte might be forced to reopen the stalled peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and may seriously avail of the NDFP’s standing policy of being open to the resumption of the peace negotiations.

The peace talks between the government and the NDFP were terminated last year through Malacanang Proclamation 360.

Efforts were made since early February this year for the possible resumption of formal talks.  However, the government backtracked and pushed another track, the localized peace talks which discards the national peace talks held in neutral venue abroad.

Last month, November, the President closed all doors to the possible revival of stalled peace talks. He then ordered government forces to wage all-out offensives against the NPA and adopted the whole-of-nation approach to crush the revolutionary movement.

The approach is actually a full-scale all-out counterrevolutionary war,  a ‘war of rapid conclusion’ combined with the massive suppression and attacks on legal progressive organizations, opposition parties and Duterte’s reactionary rivals.

It also means intensified anti-communist intimidation, red tagging, vandalism and intrigue, and militarization in the barrios, communities, factories, schools and other places.

This whole-of-nation approach is in accordance with the recommendations of the National Task Force to End Communist Insurgency and the NISP (National Internal Security Plan of 2018).  These are actually US-imposed counter-insurgency programs.

This approach also gives premium to localised peace talks and abandons the  UN-pushed DDR approach (disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration) in peace talks.

Glimmer of hope

Duterte’s recent overtures on revival of peace negotiations were manifested by the flurry of statements coming from his closest alter egos, former Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go and Labor Secretary and chief of government peace panel negotiator Silvestre Bello III.

Their pronouncements somehow provided a glimmer of hope for the possible resumption of the negotiation despite the intensified armed conflict.

Bong Go has appealed to New People’s Army (NPA) rebels not to shut the door to peace negotiations with Mr. Duterte.  “I call on the NPA to trust President Duterte,” he told reporters in a seniors’ gathering in. San Andres town, Quezon province.  “There is no other leader like him who will sincerely talk peace with you,” he added.

Apparently Go was appealing to the NDF negotiators which declared that they would now prefer to wait until the President stepped down at the end of his term in 2022 rather than pin their hopes for a peace deal on him.

Sison welcomed Go’s statement of support for the reopening of the stalled peace talks. He likewise challenged him to address his concern to President Duterte.

“If he (Go) means what he says, he should advise Duterte to allow his negotiating panel to engage in informal talks to prepare for formal talks,” Sison said in a statement.

Meanwhile, DOLE Secretary Bebot Bello has also reiterated in a Malacanang press conference recently that the President remains committed to “inclusive and lasting peace for our country.”

“…If it means resuming the peace negotiations, why not? He’s trying to get all the avenues for a possible peace negotiation or settlement,” Bello said.

Joma Sison welcomed Bello’s “positive” statements about possible reopening of peace negotiations despite the Duterte’s  announcement of crushing the NPA by midyear 2019.

“Let us see whether there will be first a test of fighting strength or the peace talks shall resume sooner than we expect under conditions of continued fighting or ceasefire justified by an interim peace agreement,” Sison also said in response.

The NDF has a standing policy of always ready to meet with government negotiators for the purpose of reviving the talks.

For the NDFP, the negotiations should address the roots of the armed conflict and agree on the social, economic and political reforms needed to lay the basis for a just and lasting peace.

(I will write about Whole-of-Nation Approach in my next column).#


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