Duterte warns rearrest of NDFP consultants if NPA will help Maute Group

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 1 June) – President Rodrigo R. Duterte warned he will order the rearrest of communist leaders who have been released on bail if the New People’s Army (NPA) will join the local terrorist Maute Group in Marawi even though the leftist movement has declared they are against the said group.

“And if there is breakdown in the peace and order because of the participation of the communists in the war against the ISIS, kung gusto ninyo tumulong sa kabila magpuntahan kayo lahat (if you want to side with the other side, go ahead),” Duterte said during 119th founding anniversary of the Philippine Navy at the Sasa Wharf in Davao City on Wednesday.

“But I am warning the leaders whom I have released and who are now talking to the representatives of my government, do not attempt to come home, I will arrest all of you, throw you in the slammer, pagkukulungin ko kayo at lahat ng matatanda arestohin ko kayo ulit (I will put you all in jail, and rearrest even seniors) and if needed, they will just die there inside the prison,” he said.

But Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chair Jose Maria Sison, Duterte’s former professor in Political Thought, told reporters covering the defunct fifth round of peace talks in The Netherlands that the New Peoples’ Army (NPA), the CPP’s armed wing, has no links with the Maute Group at all.

“Kalokohan yan (That’s non-sense),” he said.

“Malinaw sa kanila na (It’s clear to them) that we have offered that the revolutionary movement, even before, has taken a stand against Maute and Abu Sayyaf as terrorist groups. We are going to join the Maute? I don’t think that was the intent of his speech,” seconded NDFP peace panel chief negotiator Fidel V. Agcaoili

Duterte expressed his frustration over the five decades of communist unrest in the country.

“Alam mo, for all of their bravado, they never occupied even a barangay for 24 hours. And yet when they talk, it’s all full of hubris. Akala mo sino. Sison said that he will order his soldiers to engage us, and here comes a statement that they also want to fight the terrorists. At bakit? Kung manalo ba ang ISIS dito sa Pilipinas, may papel pa kayo sa mundong ito? Huwag tayong magbolahan. You will be marginalized and outcast, because your form of government is always anathema to the rest of the religious zealots in this world,” he said.

NDFP peace panel chief negotiator Fidel V. Agcaoili said they have yet to receive a call from GRP peace panel chair Silvestre Bello III and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (PAPP) Secretary Jesus Dureza to discuss the recent development.

If Duterte will make good his warning, Agcaoili said it would mean termination of the peace negotiations, explaining it is a violation of the 1995 Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) that prevents the state forces from arresting any person covered by it and cannot be charged in court “to be able to freely participate and promote peace process in the country.”

In a statement published on May 29, Agcaoili said the JASIG guarantees NDFP negotiators free and unhindered passage in all areas in the Philippines, and in traveling to and from the Philippines in connection with the performance of their duties in the negotiations; and immunity from surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution and interrogation or any other similar punitive actions due to any involvement or participation in the peace negotiations.

He said, “We deem it necessary to underscore the continuing effectivity of the JASIG in order to prevent any misreading or misinterpretation that would lead prosecutors to move for, and for the courts to cancel, the bail bonds of NDFP consultants still facing charges and for the police and military to arrest NDFP consultants who are set to return to the Philippines following the GRP’s cancellation of the fifth round of formal talks.”

Sison said the JASIG is a legal instrument that contains the mechanism for the terminations of the peace negotiations.

He suspected that the US government’s Central Intelligence Agency that once trained and funded the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to topple the Syrian government may have played a role in the Marawi crisis because of the Duterte administration’s push for independent foreign policy.

“What is more likely is that, you know Duterte has been taking concrete steps towards independent foreign policy, nagpunta sa China, Russia. Itinaon sa Russia yung Marawi incident. ISIS was the creation of CIA, so that’s more likely the connections,” Sison said.

Abu Sayyaf and the Maute group have reportedly pledged allegiance to ISIS.

Sison said their offer to help the government to fight terrorism remains and is willing to “redeploy some units to help the GRP.”

The GRP and the NDFP peace panels were scheduled to meet from May 27 to June 2 but it did not push through when the government withdrew from the fifth round of talks.

The challenges that resulted in the cancellation of the fifth round of talks, according to Dureza, include noticeable upscale of incidents of offensive attacks by the NPAs throughout the country; the seeming perception of the bigger public that these NPA operations are in open and public defiance of President Duterte who has consistently accommodated them in unprecedented ways; the renewed surfacing of public apprehension questioning the sincerity of the CPP/NPA/NDF in the peace talks; the public admissions of some panel members of the CPP/NPA NDF leaders that they have no control over their forces on the ground; the sudden and perceptible erosion of public support to the peace talks with strong messages received from the public to altogether stop peace negotiations; the clamor now to pursue instead localized peace talks; and the latest and recent President’s public statements that he will no longer sign agreements with the CPP/NPA/NDF if all of these will continue and not addressed. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)