DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/26 December) — The New People’s Army, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, should not be disarmed but should instead be strengthened to assist the government in implementing major socioeconomic reforms, an official of the National Democratic Front said on Monday.
In a press conference during the CPP’s 48th anniversary celebration in Paquibato District here, NDF senior adviser Luis Jalandoni said maintaining the NPA [as an armed force] will ensure the protection of socioeconomic reforms, such as in health and education, as well as the rights of the Lumad and the Moro people.
“Kapag nagkaroon ng (once there is a) comprehensive peace agreement, ang NPA will continue to defend the masses in the programs of land reform, national industrialization, environmental protection, and national defense,” Jalandoni said.
“The CPP-NPA can be a co-founder in the “People’s Federal Republic of the Philippines,” he said, adding, “Malaki ang mawawala, kung wala ang NPA (It’s going to be big loss if there will be no more NPA).”
President Rodrigo R. Duterte has declared he wanted a shift to a federal form of government to address the imbalance in the sharing of resources among the country’s provinces.
Jalandoni also said that the revolutionary forces can be tapped to assist the government in national defense.
But he said these things will be tackled when during the negotiation on the End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces, the last item on the 4-point agenda of the GRP-NDF peace process.
During the Ramos administration the government and the NDF signed the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.
The two parties are currently negotiating on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms or Caser.
Next on the agenda of the talks will be Political and Constitutional Reforms and End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces, in that order.
NDF consultant Wilma Tiamzon heads the Reciprocal Working Group on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces (EOH-DOF).
On January 18 to 25, the GRP and NDF panels will resume talks in Rome, Italy to discuss Caser, dubbed the “heart and soul” of the peace negotiations.
Caser covers the most contentious issues such as the agrarian reform, national industrialization, and foreign policy.
It aims to eradicate “Philippine poverty and reduce inequality in all their aspects and dimensions to have productive, decent and dignified lives,” according to common framework and outlines agreed upon by both panels.
“Maraming pang balakid na kailangan ma-overcome (A lot of hurdles need to be overcome),” Jalandoni said.
Labor secretary Silvestre Bello III, chair the GRP panel, said he is open to the proposal of Jalandoni that the NPA troops must not be disarmed.
Bello, along with Local Government secretary Mike Sueno, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano, and National Anti-Poverty Commission lead convenor Liza Maza, was invited to the CPP’s 48th anniversary celebration.
Bello, also the GRP peace panel chair, said the revolutionary forces may no longer need to lay down their arms because the government could even issue them licenses so that they perform their new roles, for example, as forest guards.
‘Agrarian reform a major challenge’
Porferio Tuna, member of the EOH-DOF working group, said that agrarian reform remains a major challenge.
He said a “true land reform” could bring about genuine peace in the country.
“(At least) 75 percent of the population are farmers, so we can say the agrarian reform is very essential. We have to fight for this,” he said.
He cited the members of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Inc., who are fighting for recognition as owners of the 145-hectare banana plantation in Barangay Madaum, Tagum City being run by Lapanday Foods Corp.
“This is going to be a big battle against the big landowners because they do not want genuine land reform, so the masses must speak in one voice against them to achieve real land reform,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)