Gov’t stands firm against Reds

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MANILA, Philippines—Malacañang shrugged. “It’s nothing new,” said Palace  spokesperson Edwin Lacierda on Saturday when asked to comment on  threats made by the communist rebels to intensify their  attacks after the government announced that it would no longer pursue peace talks.

“They (communist rebels under the National Democratic Front) have not really ceased attacking the government since formal talks started more than 20 years ago, Lacierda said.

“You can characterize the position taken by the NDF in four words, and with due respect to the novel by Ian Fleming, ‘chatty chatty bang bang.’ We talk while violence continues,” said Lacierda in a radio interview on Saturday.

The presidential spokesperson was borrowing the phrase, albeit in modified form, from Fleming’s novel, “Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car.”

“So there’s nothing new with what they’re saying (about increased offensives),” said Lacierda. “The violence being perpetrated by the NPA has never stopped. So this is nothing new. The armed forces is always ready,” he added.

In an e-mail interview from Utrecht, the Netherlands, exiled communist leader Jose Ma. Sison said the government was “asking for intensified tactical offensives by the NPA” when it declared an end to the peace negotiations.

Sison said that as a result, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People’s Army, NDF and other revolutionary forces would strengthen their “strategic defensive posture.”

A report from Negros Occidental on Saturday said communist guerrillas raided the Philex Mining Corporation facility there, killing five soldiers and wounding two others in a clash. The rebels reportedly burned an employee barracks, mining equipment and a generator and seized six firearms from the soldiers.

Each side has blamed the other for the breakdown in the peace talks.

Government peace process adviser Teresita Deles had said that it was the NDF, the political arm of the CPP, which “killed” the talks because of its insistence on preconditions before the talks could resume.

Track to nowhere

Deles had lamented the lack of progress in the talks following consultations in Manila with Norwegian special envoy Ture Lundh. Norway is brokering the negotiations.

“We are not going back to the regular track which is going nowhere,” Deles had said.

Sison had responded by saying that it was Mr. Aquino who had killed the talks by allegedly allowing Deles to obstruct and practically kill the peace negotiations, “whether it is a special track or the regular track.”

Sison also derided the government’s “new approach” to the peace process, which he said involved “localized peace talks” designed to entice area-based NPA rebels to surrender.

He said this would lead to fake negotiations and bogus mass surrenders that would pave the way for public officials to pocket money from the government in the name of fake surrenderees.

Countering Sison, Lacierda said the government had already proven its sincerity when it came to the peace talks. “We’ve already signed with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the framework agreement,” he said.

Lacierda theorized that what the NDF meant by intensified operations was to continue extorting payments of permit-to-campaign fees from politicians campaigning in rebel-controlled territories.

“It’s election time. They are asking, extorting money from politicians,” said Lacierda. Earlier, the military said the NPA was making a killing collecting permit fees this election season.

Lacierda recalled that Sison had offered a “special track” to expedite the peace process, offering the immediate cessation of hostilities, only to retract it later.

“What happened, towards the end, they withdrew the (offer of) an immediate cessation of hostilities

—they don’t want a ceasefire anymore—which is an important component of the peace talks that the government also wants,” said Lacierda, adding that the rebel leaders also demanded a stop to the implementation of the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program and the antiinsurgency campaign.

“You know, CCT is meant to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty. What the NDF wants is to perpetuate the intergenerational subservience to communism, which is unacceptable to us,” said Lacierda.

He also noted that over the last 20 years of protracted talks, only one meaningful document was signed in 1998—the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (Carhrihl).

“Over 20 years of talking with them, only one agreement… was discussed (and signed), and after that, nothing,” he said.

Lacierda said the NDF had been notified of the government’s position to seek a “new approach.” He did not elaborate.

He also said the government chief negotiator, Alex Padilla, was not on the way out.

“Why should we replace him when he is not the problem?” said Lacierda.

Padilla, interviewed by the Inquirer, echoed Lacierda’s line about Sison: “There is nothing that he is offering but the same increased violence that we have, whether we have the peace talks or not. So, what else is new?”

Former peace panel negotiator Risa Hontiveros, however, urged the government to “never close the channels of communication.”

Hontiveros, former Akbayan party-list representative and now a senatorial candidate on the Team PNoy slate, said “it’s better that they (government and NDF) exchange barbs instead of bullets.”

Talking to reporters in Camarines Sur, Hontiveros said the government must be more insistent in pursuing the peace talks “because it has an obligation to do so and is the only entity capable of doing so.” With reports from Juan Escandor Jr., Inquirer Southern Luzon; AP

 

First posted 12:03 am | Sunday, May 5th, 2013

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