Lorenzana, Esperon to Reds on return of peace talks: Show sincerity first
MANILA, Philippines—Two of the country’s highest ranking defense and security officials expressed willingness to accept a resumption of peace talks with communist rebels but on condition the rebels showed sincerity.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, in statements made separately, said sincerity was key to the resumption of the talks.
“The peace talks are just an instrument,” said Lorenzana in an interview with CNN Philippines on Wednesday (Dec. 2). “It’s not an end in itself,” he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte last April declared he was shutting the door to the resumption of peace talks with rebels, accusing New People’s Army (NPA), armed wing of Communist Party of the Philippines, of attacking government COVID-19 relief missions.
The rebels denied they attacked humanitarian missions.
Months before, Duterte said he was keen on reviving peace negotiations with National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the umbrella organization of underground communist groups that included CPP and NPA.
“The government is ready but what we want from them is a little bit of sincerity,” Lorenzana said.
Lorenzana, however, said a statement made previously by NDFP peace panel chair Luis Jalandoni made it clear that for rebels, “the peace talks is only a means to advance the revolutionary movement.”
The defense chief said for peace talks to resume, rebels should cease extorting from businesses, attacking government forces and civilians and attacking government infrastructure projects.
“For as long as they are waging this war against the government I will advise the President not to resume the peace talks,” he said.
He challenged the Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives, whom the President said was composed of communist rebels too, “to denounce CPP-NPA or renounce the armed struggle” and work with the government if they really wanted change or justice.
Esperon, at a press briefing last Tuesday (Dec. 1), said the decision whether to resume the talks rests solely on Duterte.
“If there will be a small chance for peace, he will do it for the Philippines,” said Esperon of Duterte. “The decision is no because he knows the character of CPP,” he said, speaking in Filipino.
“There have been peace talks but they continue with their attacks,” Esperon said of the rebels. “They extort, burn construction equipment. They have no sincerity,” he said.
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