Baguio council puts on hold persona non grata declaration vs Reds
BAGUIO CITY—Voting on the measure that would declare the New People’s Army, the Communist Party of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines as “persona non grata” was deferred on Monday (Dec. 2) after some councilors commented that communist rebels were being singled out.
Stressing that the council had passed resolutions urging a resumption of peace talks with the NPA, Councilor Arthur Allad-iw pointed out that other armed groups should be included in a resolution declaring them unwelcome in Baguio for committing atrocities and violence. Allad-iw is a member of the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines.
The measure’s sponsor, Councilor Francisco Roberto Ortega VI, said Baguio, a university town, has no problems with insurgency but “rebels come here to recruit new members.”
He said declaring the rebels unwelcome would curb recruitment and was part of the city government’s commitment to support President Rodrigo Duterte’s initiatives to end the insurgency during his term at all cost.
Ortega agreed to defer voting on the measure when Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan and other councilors asked for evidence of rebel recruitment.
“Instead of declaring them unwelcome can we actually request that they surrender and lay down their arms,” Olowan said, drawing laughter from the gallery during the council’s regular session.
A persona non grata resolution would also run counter to another proposal for a shelter program for rebel returnees, said Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda. “If they are no longer welcome,” who would that program serve,” she said.
Duterte formally terminated peace talks with the insurgents in March and formed the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict. He directed the task force to concentrate all public services and government programs into rebel-influenced communities to solve problems that NPA rebels use to justify its war on the government.