Ex-rebels vow to help widen support for peace talks | Inquirer News

Ex-rebels vow to help widen support for peace talks

/ 05:45 AM January 23, 2024

REUNION Former Communist Party of the Philippines chair Rodolfo Salas (left) chats with former comrades, like former Alex Boncayao Brigade chief Nilo dela Cruz (foreground) during a gathering inQuezon City on Saturday. —RYAN D. ROSAURO

REUNION | Former Communist Party of the Philippines chair Rodolfo Salas (left) chats with former comrades, like former Alex Boncayao Brigade chief Nilo dela Cruz (foreground) during a gathering in Quezon City on Saturday. (Photo by RYAN D. ROSAURO)

MANILA, Philippines — Around 250 former political activists and cadres of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) from across the country vowed to “lend our voice” to help widen public support for the expected reopening of peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

The former rebels gathered in Quezon City over the weekend for the National Peace Advocates Summit organized by the Political Officers League of the Philippines (Polphil), a nationwide umbrella organization of political and governance advisers of mostly local government executives.


Among others, those in attendance were Iglesia Catolica Filipina Independiente Bishop Nilo Tayag, cofounder of Kabataang Makabayan; Nilo dela Cruz, former chief of urban guerrilla Alex Boncayao Brigade of the New People’s Army (NPA); Rodolfo Salas, former NPA chief and CPP chair; and former activist-priest Edicio dela Torre.


“We have spent our youth struggling for social justice and democracy hence we know the underpinnings of the conflict that has spawned over five decades of the communist rebellion. Today, we commit to lend our voice so that more people will join the push for a peaceful end of the rebellion, that is, through sincere political negotiations,” Polphil president Rodolfo Cañeda, a former underground activist in Central Visayas, told the Inquirer on the sidelines of the gathering.

Public expectations of an impending restart of peace talks between the government and the NDFP had risen following last year’s landmark joint communique firmed up in Oslo, capping a yearlong of back-channel discussions that started several months into the incumbency of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

In the communique, the parties “agree to a principled and peaceful resolution of the armed conflict” and “acknowledge the deep-rooted socioeconomic and political grievances,” setting the upcoming negotiations toward the aim of “achieving the relevant socioeconomic and political reforms towards a just and lasting peace.”

Earlier, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. said that after the Oslo communique, the parties started working on a framework and set of parameters that would guide the negotiations.

People’s support

“The intervention, the involvement of the people (in the peace process), is needed. After all, what will be agreed in the negotiations needs the people’s affirmation and support,” former Chief Justice Reynato Puno said in his keynote address on Saturday delivered via Zoom.

“Without a clear end to the negotiations, the (communist) rebellion has persisted. The resources used for war could have been used to foster economic development,” Puno added.


He urged the former activists to “bridge the voices of the people to the policymakers” and peace negotiators.

“We are taking up Chief Justice Puno’s advice. That is why we will be consolidating ourselves, not for any other goal but for peace,” said Cañeda, who later joined the administration of former President Joseph Estrada as executive director of the National Youth Commission and later as Cooperative Development Authority administrator.

Positive signals

According to Salas, one of the big issues that must be given due attention is reforms in the political system. “There is no sustained peace if society is controlled only by a few,” Salas pointed out.

Salas added that good signals on the peace front were highly welcome as he had thought “the last opportunity for political negotiations was during the time of [President Rodrigo] Duterte.”

Summoning some bit of nostalgia, Salas recalled that it was during the time of the late President Fidel Ramos that the government “was really serious about the talks,” only that the CPP “was in shambles” due to internal dissensions and split.

Former Agrarian Reform Secretary Hernani Braganza noted that there were enough positive signals from the Marcos administration that peacemaking was among its priorities.

These include the grant of amnesty for rebels, the order to fast-track land distribution, and the condonation of debts of agrarian reform beneficiaries.

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The last two issues are included in the discussions on socioeconomic reforms while amnesty in the confidence-building measures, said Braganza, who had been part of government’s negotiating panel under four presidents — Ramos, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Benigno Aquino III, and Rodrigo Duterte.

TAGS: former rebels, peace talks revival

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