President Duterte appeared determined last Friday to stop any further negotiation with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its political front, the National Democratic Front (NDF), to end the decades-old rebellion of the New People’s Army (NPA).
“There will be no talks for the next five years,” he said, referring to the remaining five years of his term. He quoted remarks of Jose Ma. Sison, founding chairman of the CCP, who, in an interview in Utrecht, Netherlands, last week, had said the Communist rebels can no longer be persuaded to return to the negotiating table.
In an interview over the government’s PTV-4 network, the President said that if Sison does not want to return to the peace talks, “ayaw ko na rin (neither do I).” But any NPA soldier who wants to surrender, he added, can go to the nearest police or military camp. “I will accept you… I will build houses for you. I will give you jobs.”
The President, however, continues to hold on to his peace hopes. After the NPA in Davao released a Davao City policeman they had held hostage for three months, the President added that if the NPA wants to resume the talks, “I am not averse to the idea.”
Earlier this month, Sen. Gregorio Honasan, chairman of the Senate Committee on National Defense, gave this assessment of the situation. The NPA, he said, believes it is strong militarily and sees no reason to lay down its arms. “Because, if you are strong militarily, why will you talk? If you are weak, you want to buy time and talk. That is the general rule.”
If this is indeed the real situation in the field, the government will have to respond with corresponding force, strength, and authority. The combined might of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police cannot be seen as incapable of dealing with this continuing threat to government authority.
But the NPA problem is, of course, more than a military one. It has roots in the social inequalities and injustices in the remote areas of the country where it thrives. In the last few month of the peace talks, a great deal of progress was reported on these issues, which were classified under two broad areas – socio-economic and political-constitutional.
Even as the government carries on its military drive against the NPA, the social, economic, and political reform efforts must continue. One day, when most – if not all – the reasons for discontent have been removed, the talks can resume and the long-awaited peace with the Communist rebel movement will finally be achieved.
Tags: Communist Party of the Philippines, Gregorio Honasan, National Democratic Front, NPA, Peace talks, Philippine National Police, President Duterte, Reforms must continue even if talks have stopped