Top Duterte execs attend assembly of Reds in Davao
DAVAO CITY—A glittery golden hammer and sickle superimposed on a background of crimson cloth hangs in the middle of a gymnasium in the city’s Paquibato District.
Thousands of people gathered, ignoring the sweltering heat, in the first national peace gathering of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) inside a guerrilla base.
The peace gathering, attended by an estimated 25,000 people, coincided with the commemoration of the 48th founding anniversary of the CPP. It was attended by ranking communist leaders including National Democratic Front’s (NDF) senior adviser Luis Jalandoni and negotiator Connie Ledesma.
Also present were NDF consultants Concha Araneta, Porferio Tuna and Ariel Arbitrario.
Several government officials, including Labor Secretary and government peace panel chair Silvestre Bello III, Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano, National Anti-Poverty Commission chief Liza Maza and Labor Undersecretary Joel Maglungsod, also arrived.
Unlike previous CPP anniversary celebrations dominated by fiery speeches, this year’s anniversary gathering provided a space for people to interact with peace panel members and consultants and to discuss prospects of ongoing negotiations with the government.
Land reform key to peace
Jalandoni said the NDF will push its agenda for genuine land reform during the negotiations.
“Genuine land reform is the key for peace because 75 percent of our population are farmers. This is really essential,” Jalandoni said.
But Jalandoni said it would not be easy to explain, and landlords and companies would not easily agree on the distribution of lands to the farmers.
“What is our prospect?” he asked. “We believe that this will be a big struggle because hacenderos would not agree to a genuine agrarian reform,” Jalandoni said.
That’s why, he said, it is important that a strong mass movement should complement the ongoing efforts of the peace panel.
He said the fate of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (Caser), would depend on the strength of the mass movements for agrarian reform.
Jalandoni also said this is the reason the New People’s Army would not surrender especially in areas where agrarian unrest continues.
“The NPA will not surrender especially in areas where it is needed,” Jalandoni said.
Jalandoni said the Left’s relationship with President Duterte remains to be strong and this would be crucial in the peace process.
The CPP is not willing to die for Mr. Duterte, but Jalandoni said the movement remains a strong ally of the administration and may be able to protect it from coup plots.
Speaking at the gathering, government chief negotiator Bello expressed Mr. Duterte’s full commitment to completing the peace process with the communists.
Bello also appealed to the NPA to understand that while they wish the immediate release of at least 434 political prisoners languishing in jails in the country, the government is required to observe legal procedures to do so.
Sueno said he has directed all local government units to open their doors for dialogues with local communist leaders.
He said local government units should collaborate with, rather than antagonize, rebel forces on the ground. —KARLOS MANLUPIG
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