DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 28 December) – Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez has urged everyone to “exercise caution” in resuming peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front (NDF) as localized peace talks, he said, have proven to be “highly effective in achieving enduring peace, social justice, and development.”
“We support President Duterte’s wish to ensure a peaceful holiday season for Filipinos and particularly all the combatants. May this act of goodwill be considered by the other side as a step towards finally putting an end to the armed violence,” Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez, Jr. said in a statement released on Saturday.
But the retired General and former Armed Forces Chief of Staff urged everyone to be cautious in resuming peace negotiations at the national level as he recalled incidents in the past “when ceasefires were blatantly violated and exploited by the left in order to push forward their agenda.”
President Rodrigo Duterte and the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines on December 22 each declared a 16-day unilateral and reciprocal ceasefire from December 23, 2019 to 11:59 p.m. on January 7, 2020, based on the recommendation of the government and NDF peace panels.
Galvez fears the government may be put at a disadvantage if the peace talks with the NDF is resumed. The NDF represents the CPP and the New People’s Army in the peace negotiations.
“As peace talks were being held at the national level, attacks were being carried out by the rebels. In short, there have already been precedents. We have to be prepared and make sure that such incidents are prevented at all costs,” Galvez said.
Galvez said that through the localized peace talks or localized peace engagements (LPEs) institutionalized by Executive Order 70, government is “demonstrating its strong resolve and decisiveness to put an end to the local communist armed conflict by directly addressing the roots of the armed rebellion and involving all national and local government agencies together with key stakeholders – including the rebels themselves.”
“The LPE approach directly addresses the needs of people and communities and prevents them from being exploited by the insurgents. The government provides basic services, livelihood, and security, among others, as a means of capacitating them,” he said.
Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio was the first to raise concern about the resumption of the peace negotiations with the NDF and asked that her city be exempted from the coverage of the holiday truce.
“Why the past peace negotiations sorely failed could only be blamed on the countless criminal acts and treachery of NDFP-CPP-NPA — displayed even during times when ceasefires were supposed to be in place,” she said.
“We believe that the Christmas truce will be used by the terrorist groups as an opportunity to regain communities previously cleared of their presence, consolidate their forces, and derail the progress of existing government rural development projects,” she added.
In Mindanao, Galvez’ press statement says, the conduct of localized talks “has resulted in the mass surrender” of members of the CPP-NPA Southern, Northeastern, and Western Mindanao Regional Party Committees operating in Regions IX, X, XI and CARAGA.
Local Governments secretary Eduardo Año, also a former Armed Forces Chief of Staff like Galvez, in a statement on December 23 said that while they remain vigilant and take a strong defensive stance, the ceasefire ‘”will also give an opportunity for our policemen and soldiers in the field to spend a meaningful celebration of Christmas with their families.”
But Ano expressed hope that “the NPA rebels would realize that what they are fighting for is already a lost and despicable cause.”
He said is better for the NPA to “surrender, avail of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Community Integration Program (ECLIP), rejoin mainstream society, and start a new life together with their families.” (MindaNews)