By Francis Wakefield
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana Wednesday said that communist leaders should prove first that they have control on their people on the ground before declaring ceasefire with the Reds.
Lorenzana made the remark after President Rodrigo Duterte declared that he was willing to resume the negotiations with communist rebels and even “subsidize” the peace process.
“They have to prove na kaya nilang rendahan yung mga tao nila sa baba, Kasi kung magkaroon tayo ng ceasefire, bilateral, kailangan assured tayo na kayang kaya nilang kontrolin iyung mga tao, otherwise huwag na lang (They have to prove that they have control over their people on the ground because if we have a ceasefire, bilateral, we need to be assured that they can control them, otherwise no more),” Lorenzana said.
Lorenzana said as Chief Executive, the President is not closing the door on peace talks especially if the other side will show sincerity and will no longer commit atrocities like burning of heavy equipment.
“Ang tawag ko doon (I call that) disabling environment, hindi na (not) enabling. Parang sinasabutahe nila yung kung meron mang balak makipag-usap (Its like they are sabotaging those who want to talk. They are sabotaging the government on the ground),” Lorenzana said.
“So my question is do they have any control over their fighters on the ground? That is the question that I was asking even before,” Lorenzana said.
“What we want is bilateral (ceasefire) so that there will be mechanism to check who is violating what. We don’t have any problem in controlling our troops, even the police because we have this chain of command,” he said.
Lorenzana said time and again, he considers the NPA’s as the Number 1 security threat because they have been the cause of some underdevelopment in the countryside because of their presence there.
“Tinatakot nila iyung mga contractors, kinikotongan nila, sinusunog nila yung mga equipment so they are the threat actually, kung wala sila matagal na tayong umangat eh (They terrorize the contractors, they extort money on them, they burn equipment so they are the threat actually),” he said.
For his part Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Rey Leonardo Guerrero said that whatever the President’s decision will be, they will support it.
“Its a political decision and whatever the decision the President would be, we will support him,” Guerrero said.
“We have been here many times before so we know how to deal with the situation regardless what it is,” he added.
Guerrero, however, said that atrocities committed by the rebels definitely are not helping in efforts of resuming the talks.
“Definitely, hindi nakakatulong iyun. Sabi ko how can we say we are talking peace when there is violence happening around you?,” he said.