4 presidential bets open to reopening peace talks with communists
MANILA, Philippines — Four presidential candidates are open to pursuing peace talks with communist rebels — the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).
These were the candidates who took part in the presidential debates hosted by Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) on Tuesday — labor leader Leody de Guzman, former Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales, former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, and former presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella.
De Guzman said everyone should acknowledge that the armed struggle was fueled by injustices committed against the people.
“We really need to have a proper discussion so that peace talks could take place and stop this war in our own country between Filipinos,” he said in Filipino. “But let’s recognize that there’s a revolution here in our country. There’s an uprising, and this uprising is a result of injustices in our country.”
De Guzman noted that the previous administration, referring to that under President Benigno Aquino III, made agreements with communist rebels, but some conditions were not met.
“Our citizens wished to have land reform, and that was agreed on, but it was not implemented. We should implement that,” he said.
Former defense chief Norberto Gonzales agreed with De Guzman.
But he said in Filipino: “Our problem is we don’t have a specific law for rebellion. That’s a criminal case. So the government acts on the basis of criminal law. It will look for the killers and will subject to laws with the appropriate punishment.”
“But you are right, Ka Leody,” Gonzales added. “Let’s review the agreements. Let’s open the talks. They should continue.”
President Rodrigo Duterte ended peace talks in 2019.
Stand on NTF-Elcac
Both Marcos and Abella said they would keep the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) should they win the presidency.
“The first responsibility of any elected officials, on our taking our oath, is to defend and protect the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines — and that includes the defense of our people and of our republic,” Marcos said.
“So this problem [of armed struggle] continues. We should continue our peace talks until we can a real peace agreement. That includes the Balik Loob Program, which continues to be done, and the NTF-ELCAC, which has become very effective in fighting this problem,” he added.
Abella noted that the solution should include economic development.
“This is a two-track solution. We need short-, medium- and long-term [solutions]. In the medium and long term, we really need to include economic development,” he said.
“Second, of course, we need negotiations on the ground, especially local. And things like the NTF-ELCAC should also continue dealing with aspects that need to be addressed,” he added.
Later on, De Guzman said that if he should win he would abolish the NTF-ELCAC.
The NTF-Elcac has become controversial for its red-tagging of civilians.
Meanwhile, the other presidential candidates — Vice President Leni Robredo, Sen. Manny Pacquiao, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno — skipped the SMNI debate due to various reasons.
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