Joma, solons hit back at ceasefire cynics
Jose Maria Sison and left-wing lawmakers on Friday assailed defense and military officials for raising doubts that communist rebels would respect a planned truce even before peace negotiators had completed details of the preliminary ceasefire deal.
During their back-channel talks in the Netherlands, negotiators from the government and the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) agreed that military and rebel forces would stand down as early as next week before the two sides resumed formal peace talks, according to Sison.
On Thursday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters the communist New People’s Army (NPA) may not honor its commitments to stand down and then use the talks to expand its forces.
“The comment is baseless and seeks to prevent or discourage the stand-down agreement,” Sison said in an online interview from Utrecht, the Netherlands, where he lives in exile.
Sison, founding chair of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), assured that if the NDFP panel agreed to the stand-down, “the CPP and NPA (will) also agree and will follow the terms” of the accord.
Sison now serves as the NDFP’s chief political consultant in the talks.
The planned new round of talks followed a directive by President Duterte in April to the government peace panel to resume the negotiations.
Mr. Duterte canceled the talks last November, complaining of continuing NPA attacks. His administration later sought a court declaration that the CPP-NPA were terrorists, along with more than 600 people, including NDFP negotiators.
The President told newly elected barangay officials in Central Visayas on Thursday night that he had spoken with Sison and that formal talks may start “maybe around July.”
At the House of Representatives, members of the Makabayan bloc on Friday called on defense and military officials to stop sabotaging the talks.
“Stop monkey-wrenching the GPH-NDFP peace talks,” Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said in a statement.
He said Lorenzana and the military should instead “concentrate on the defense of the Philippines from China and the US [which] are now increasing their military activities in our territories.”
Zarate said Lorenzana and the military were questioning the rebels’ intentions but could not offer any solution to the nearly half-century-old communist insurgency, which peace negotiators were trying to end “for a just and lasting peace and uplift the lives of majority of Filipinos.”
He said the military’s US-inspired and decades-long counterinsurgency programs “have been proven to be a failure and a waste of lives and resources.”
NDFP Mindanao spokesperson Joaquin Jacinto said in a statement that the success of the planned ceasefire would depend on the military.
In the past, the “nature of a stand-down gave the (military) the latitude to deploy their troops within the vicinity of barangays in Mindanao on the pretext of ‘civilian-related’ military operations,” he said.
Jacinto said monitoring committees could be put up ahead of the planned stand-down so that violations would be properly recorded and addressed.
Sison said the stand-down was meant to stimulate the atmosphere for the resumption of the talks, which would be followed by the signing of the interim peace agreement that would pave the way for a formal ceasefire. —WITH A REPORT FROM JULIE M. AURELIO AND CHRIS PANGANIBAN