AFTER almost six years, the Aquino administration on Sunday declared they have been talking peace with the “wrong people” by going through self-exiled communist leaders Jose Ma. Sison and Luis Jalandoni, and said the next administration should deal directly with the communist rebels on the ground.
In an interview over radio dzBB, the government’s chief peace negotiator Undersecretary Alex Padilla said a resumption of peace talks with the National Democratic Front, led by Sison and Jalandoni, was unlikely.
Padilla advised the next administration to negotiate directly with the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army instead of the NDF.
“We are talking to the wrong people in the NDF. The NDF has no control over NPA. That is very clear to us now. The NPA is the military wing of the CPP. The NDF does not say if the NPA is part of the NDF. Even Joma Sison does not admit he is part of the CPP. The one that gives orders to the NPA is the CPP. Now if the CPP gives orders to the NPA, then we should be talking to the CPP, not the NDF,” Padilla said.
Padilla lamented that the government had overlooked this fact for the last 30 years, and admitted this was one of the hardest lessons he learned from the peace negotiations.
Because the NDF had no control over the CPP-NPA, any agreement reached with it would not be binding on the communist rebels, Padilla said.
“It’s been 30 years that we have been talking to the NDF. I maybe am the fifth panel head and we have been talking to one and the same panel that is principally in Utrecht. So my question is, is the NDF the right group to talk peace with? If they are indeed serious about talking peace, perhaps the right group to talk to is the CPP because they are the ones that control the armed-wing, NPA,” Padilla said.
Padilla said that while the NDF claims to be a coalition of revolutionary organizations that includes peasants, students and the religious, the CPP-NPA is not among them.
He added that when Sison and Jalandoni faced the government peace panel, their declarations were different from what the CPP-NPA stood for.
He said Ang Bayan, the official newsletter of the CPP, was consistent in claiming they would use the peace negotiations to promote the communist propaganda to bring down the government through armed struggle.
“That’s why they wanted their consultants to be released by the government so they can regroup and push for the armed struggle. They were released on the premise that they would involve themselves in promoting peace and to put an end to the 47-year-old insurgency. But they all went underground again,” he said. “Sison’s hold over the CPP is not clear since he is just a consultant of the NDF.”
“Joma Sison does not admit he is the leader of CPP-NPA. We all know that he was the one who formed the CPP and built up the NPA. But if we are talking peace, it should be the NPA and CPP that we should negotiate with,” Padilla said.
“These are the hard lessons we have learned that we wanted to share with the next administration,” he said.
Padilla also questioned the NDF’s sincerity in confidence building, citing its constant demand that the government release its consultants.
“The government has already released nine NDF consultants. But the number keeps growing. In June 2011, they only claimed they have 17 or 18 consultants. Then it grew to 500. And when the government conceded and released nine of them, we found out they went back underground and rejoined the armed struggle,” Padilla said.
He said that while the government and the NDF agreed to a ceasefire while peace talks were ongoing, the NDF could not order the NPA to honor the agreement.
“Let’s push it to logical conclusion. Let’s say the NDF signs an agreement, but the CPP doesn’t approve, or doesn’t want to give up control of the NPA. What happens to the agreement?” he said in Filipino. “It would become a piece of paper with no effect. Should we continue talking to the NDF?”
In retrospect, Padilla said, this was why talking peace with the NDF was futile after 30 years of negotiation.
“It’s about time the negotiations be localized. The negotiations must be done with those directly involved in the armed struggle here in the country,” he said.
Padilla said through informal channels, the government had tried to reach out to the communist insurgents and start engaging in confidence building measures again, adding that a temporary truce during next year’s elections would be a good start.
“If they cannot even enforce a temporary truce during the elections, how can we possibly discuss even bigger concerns such as the comprehensive agreements, agrarian reform and human rights and putting an end to the 47-year-old insurgency?” Padilla said.
The Palace on Sunday dismissed as propaganda a claim by the CPP-NPA that it was expanding its reach in Northern Mindanao.
“There is no truth to the propaganda of the CPP-NPA regarding their widening of their force in Mindanao,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. over state-run radio dzRB.
Coloma said the latest data gathered by the Cabinet security cluster from the Armed Forces showed that the number of CPP-NPA members had dropped from 2,035 in 2014 to 1,691 in 2015, and that the number of affected barangays had fallen from 547 to 414.
The contending forces traded accusations and counter-claims on the eve of the 47th anniversary of the CPP Saturday with the communist front citing strategic achievements that the military dismissed as lies.
Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos, spokesman of the National Democratic Front-Mindanao, said the guerrilla fronts established rose from 40 during the first year of President Benigno Aquino III to 46 in five regions in Mindanao.
“Not one was dismantled despite the ferocity of the attacks” under the government’s counter-insurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan, he said.
Also on Sunday, presidential candidate Senator Grace Poe said an extension of the ceasefire could reopen talks with the communist rebels.
“An extension of the ceasefire would be a goodwill gesture that could lead us back to the negotiating table. Armed conflicts must end. People are already weary of violence,” Poe said.
The government and the CCP have declared a 12-day ceasefire, beginning Dec. 23 until Jan. 3. Both parties said the truce was in solidarity with the traditional celebration of Christmas and New Year.
The military reported that five NPA fighters took advantage of the ceasefire by surrendering themselves and their weapons to the Army’s 10th Infantry Division in Compostela Valley on Dec. 23 and 24.
Despite the ceasefire, the Army said it was on alert as the CCP marked its 46th founding anniversary. With Sandy Araneta, Macon Ramos-Araneta, PNA
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