President Rodrigo Duterte has scrapped the resumption of formal negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front amid concerns that the rebel group is using the peace talks to regroup and secure its jailed leaders.
CPP founding chairman and NDF chief political consultant Jose Ma. Sison immediately retaliated by calling the official explanation of presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza “bullshit” as he ordered the New People’s Army to “wage a people’s war” against the government.
Dureza said the President’s decision to postpone the peace negotiations will allow the government to engage a “bigger peace table” to include the public and other sectors in government.
“Because the government under Duterte is obviously not interested in serious peace negotiations, the revolutionary forces and the people have no choice but to single-mindedly wage people’s war to achieve the national and social liberation of the Filipino people,” Sison said in a statement released from Utrecht.
“We call the bullshit of Dureza about having the biggest peace table with the public...Duterte just wants me to return to the Philippines and resume the talks there so he can control the peace talks. Duterte is a control and homicidal maniac,” Sison told Manila Standard in a separate interview.
A well-placed source who was privy to Wednesday evening’s joint Armed Forces of the Philippines-Philippine National Police Command Conference in Malacañang said Duterte reached the decision to “reset” the peace talks following Sison’s several pronouncements on the timetable of the negotiations.
“The President reviewed the recent statements of Joma because it was Joma who was announcing that there will be a week-long ‘stand down order’ between the NDF and the government that will begin on June 21 and that the formal peace talks will resume on June 28. Is he the spokesman of the government? Baka akala niya nanalo na sila sa giyera [Perhaps he thought they already won the war],” the source said.
“How can Joma say there will be a ceasefire effective June 21? Sinong kausap niya? (Who is he talking to?) There are backchannel talks but nothing has been approved by the principal yet. Is he trying to preempt the government?” the source added.
Last week, a Manila regional trial court allowed five jailed communist leaders―CPP chairman Benito Tiamzon, Adelberto Silva, Rafael Baylosis, Randall Echanis and Vicente Ladlad―to travel abroad and participate in the resumption of the peace talks as NDF consultants.
A separate source said Tiamzon and Baylosis, in particular, appeared to have already gone underground.
Dureza acknowledged that the suspension of the arrest warrants may be recalled with Duterte’s decision, calling it a “necessary consequence” that will be resolved by the court which approved their bail.
Sison said the suspension of the bail bond for Tiamzon and his colleagues is expected already.
Sison also insisted that the June 21 and June 28 dates that he announced in the media were contained in written agreements signed by government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III and NDF chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili on June 9 and 10.
“It is starkly clear that the government under Duterte is not interested in serious peace negotiations with the NDF. It is interested vainly in obtaining the NDF capitulation under the guise of an indefinite ceasefire agreements,” he added.
Defense chief Delfin Lorenzana, for his part, said the CPP and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, have always used the peace talks to strengthen their organization.
“They have always done that―they regroup and recruit whenever we hold peace talks,” he said in a phone interview.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., a former presidential peace adviser, said peace talks must resume “founded on a strong preliminary agreement on ceasefire and a clear agenda.”
“Let us be cautious about it even as we must work fast,” Esperon said.
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