CPP still supports peace talks with gov’t but…

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/26 December) — The Communist Party of the Philippines on Monday said it continues to support the peace negotiations with the Duterte administration that will lead to social reforms but warned it might terminate the unilateral ceasefire declaration over “armed provocations” by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

In a statement issued on the occasion of its 48th anniversary, the CPP said its unilateral ceasefire declaration has become increasingly untenable due to “continuing Oplan Bayanihan operations”, forcing the New People’s Army to engage in “evasion maneuvers”.

The CPP-NPA and the government issued unilateral ceasefire declarations in August.

“There are bound to be armed skirmishes as the AFP conducts armed provocations. Thus, the termination of the CPP’s unilateral ceasefire declaration becomes inevitable,” the CPP statement said.

“Duterte has allowed the AFP to continue its armed operations in the countryside under Oplan Bayanihan. Not only do these trample on the spirit of the reciprocal ceasefire declarations, these have also brought about rampant cases of human rights abuses. These is also widespread condemnation of police and vigilante killings instigated by Duterte in his ‘war against drugs’,” it added.

But the statement said that the CPP and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, remain open to forging a bilateral ceasefire that would take effect simultaneous with the release of all political prisoners.

It said that while the Party continues to support the peace talks to attain social reforms, its enthusiasm over the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations has waned over President Duterte’s refusal to release all political prisoners through an amnesty proclamation despite promising twice and agreeing to do so in the first round of peace talks.

Early this month, President Duterte said the government will release additional political prisoners only after the signing of a bilateral ceasefire agreement.

“Too much too soon”

Last December 6, a statement from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process quoted Duterte as saying there will be no substantial release of political prisoners pending the signing of the ceasefire agreement.

“Produce to me a signed bilateral ceasefire agreement and I will release them within 48 hours. You can take my word for it,” he said.

Two days after, the President reiterated his position on the release of political prisoners.

“I have conceded to the communists too much too soon. As yet, I have to see a substantive progress of the talks. They are asking for 130 detainees to be released, all NPAs (all members of the New People’s Army). Sorry, I cannot do it because uubusin nila ang baraha ko” (I will lose all my cards), Duterte told reporters at the groundbreaking rites for the Bicol International Airport Terminal in Legazpi City.

In a statement on December 9, NDFP peace panel chair Fidel Agcaoili described Duterte’s pronouncement as “disturbing and disappointing, being a complete turnaround” from the commitments he made to him and NDFP consultants Benito and Wilma Tiamzon in Davao City on December 2 “where he categorically committed to pardoning 40 convicted political prisoners and releasing 130 sick and elderly political detainees before Christmas.”

Agcaoili added that Duterte’s branding of all political prisoners as “all NPAs” was a “rash accusation”.

The government facilitated the release of 22 political prisoners who are serving as NDFP peace panel consultants shortly before the start of the first round of formal peace talks in Oslo, Norway in August.

Shaky alliance

The statement noted that Duterte, who considered himself a “socialist” and “first Leftist president”, has had “long friendly relations with the revolutionary forces in Mindanao and had expressed willingness to address the roots of the armed conflict.”

It cited too his appointment of Left personalities to the cabinet and other government agencies.

It said these gestures made the CPP issue “a policy of alliance and struggle, as an expression of the willingness of the revolutionary forces to forge cooperation along the patriotic and democratic aspirations of the people.”

But the CPP said that key positions in government remain in the hands of the Right, and the AFP remains in the command of “pro-US generals”.

It said these explain why Duterte has flip-flopped over his avowed independent foreign policy.

“For several times now, he has announced his intention to abrogate the EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement) or the VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement) only to backtrack soon afterward. He has also approved of the plan for the US military to conduct more than 250 military exercises in the Philippines next year, including the annual Balikatan exercises after having declared several times that US troops must be out of Philippine territory.”

The CPP also criticized Duterte’s economic policy of attracting foreign investments by allegedly lowering wages and allowing foreign entities to own and operate large enterprises in the country.

“There is bound to be much uncertainty regarding the prospects of an alliance between the revolutionary movement and the Duterte government. There will be increasing instances of sharp differences and struggle as the people become increasingly restive over their worsening socioeconomic plight,” it said.

The CPP, however, said it looks forward to the next round of talks on January 18-23 to be held in Rome, Italy. It estimated the negotiations on socioeconomic reforms and political and constitutional reforms to be completed in one or two years.

“This will give the Duterte government and the NDFP at least four more years to implement the agreements and help improve the situation of the people,” it said. (MindaNews)