Dureza cancels planned meetings with communists

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 22 Nov) – Secretary Jesus Dureza, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (PAPP), has cancelled the planned meetings with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) after President Rodrigo R. Duterte said it is no longer an “entity worth talking to” and categorized it as a terrorist group.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Dureza said the cancellation of the planned meetings was an unfortunate development because the peace talks between the government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) had never reached the fifth round under previous administrations.

Dureza said they took guidance from the recent announcement and declaration of the President who blamed the New People’s Army (NPA), armed wing of the communists, as behind a series of attacks all over the country.

Duterte told reporters on Tuesday that Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo would study and draft the proclamation labelling the communists as terrorists.

“It’s a legal thing that they have to craft,” he said.

Duterte said he will not go back to the peace table with the CPP with the NPA attack last November 9 in Barangay Tikalaan, Talakag, Bukidnon that left two people dead and six injured. Among those killed was four-month-old Walysha Machorao, whose family boarded a Toyota Fortuner that was tailing a police patrol car.

The United States Secretary of State has designated the CPP-NPA as a foreign terrorist organization on August 9, 2002. From 1997 to 2017, the Secretary has listed 61 international terrorist groups, with only 13 groups so far delisted. The CPP-NPA is still on the list.

Duterte warned the mining companies to close if they continue to pay revolutionary taxes to the NPA.

“It’s almost a public knowledge that mining companies are contributing to the taxation of the NPAs thereby giving them also strength, money to buy arms, and bullets and all in their desire to topple down the Republic of the Philippines. We have to talk. I have to talk to them. For those who cannot resist, then you better close up,” he stressed.

In a statement issued on Monday, the communists said: “The people recognize these threats against the revolutionary and progressive movement for what they are: to eliminate the strongest and most consistent opposition to his [Duterte’s] fascist rule, silence dissent against his anti-people and pro-imperialist policies and further perpetuate himself in power through a one-man rule.”

“The fact is, he does not even need to issue this threat. The reactionary state has long criminalized political dissent, charging both revolutionaries and progressives with trumped-up criminal charges and detaining them for long periods of time,” the communists added.

The supposed fifth round of peace negotiations scheduled on May 27 to June 2 in The Netherlands was cancelled by the GRP “for lack of compelling reason” after the NDFP instructed the NPA units to intensify offensives across the country with Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao last May 23.

Duterte placed Mindanao under martial law after the Islamic State-inspired Maute Group attacked Marawi. It took the military five months of non-stop clashes with the terrorists to retake the country’s lone Islamic City.

The 60-day implementation period, as allowed by the 1987 Constitution, was supposed to lapse on July 22, but Duterte extended martial law until December 31 and got congressional approval.

Last October 16, the military killed Abu Sayyaf Group leader Isnilon Hapilon, the emir of the ISIS in Southeast Asia, and Omar Maute.

Dureza said the President has taken “unprecedented steps and has walked the so-called extra mile to bring peace” but he criticized the communists for not reciprocating this effort.

He maintained that the GRP-NDFP peace talks would not resume “until such time as the desired enabling environment conducive to a change in the government’s position becomes evident.”

Dureza thanked the Royal Norwegian Government for its strong support to the peace efforts and, at the same time, expressed regrets for this turn of events.

He said the government remains steadfast and undeterred in its unrelenting journey for sustainable and just peace.

“Let’s all stay the course,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)