DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 13 April) — Mayor Sara Duterte is asking her father, President Rodrigo Duterte, to reconsider his decision to reopen peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front (NDF) as it is “counterproductive and plainly useless.”
“While I trust the wisdom of the President and his intention to end the insurgency problem peacefully, I believe pursuing peace talks with the NDFP-CPP-NPA is counterproductive and plainly useless,” the mayor said in a 20-paragraph statement issued Friday, April 13, adding the country will move forward “if the government is able to eliminate the rebels and end this senseless rebellion.”
“Just like a battered lover, there is a time to finally say no to pain and suffering. No to peace talks,” said the President’s daughter who is serving her second term as mayor. She was vice mayor to her father-mayor from 2007 to 2010, mayor from 2010 to 2013, and went into private law practice when her father was mayor from 2013 to 2016.
The mayor described the NDF, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA) as “terrorists” motivated by the desire to overthrow the government and rule the nation. The NDF represents the CPP and NPA in the negotiations.
“For them, peace is not an option. And that’s because they are terrorists,” she declared.
“We maintain our position that we are not supposed to negotiate with terrorists, but deal with them the way we should — tough, strong, high intensity, and one that gathers all sectors to completely crush their influence in communities where they are present,” she said.
In a statement on April 2, issued after 10 heavy equipment used for construction of roads in three villages were burned by the NPA on March 31 and April 1, the mayor said the attacks were “downright cowardly and indicate that the NPA is nothing but a terrorist group that deserves our collective rejection and condemnation.”
In her April 13 statement, the mayor said the communist insurgency can end peacefully only if the NDF-CPP-NPA are “sincere, honest, and committed to working toward the direction of peace and reciprocate the gesture offered by the government” but noted that there are “no indications at all” of these, that they cannot be trusted “as they have consistently shown us their deep-seated proclivity to sow hate, violence and extremism, destruction, and senseless killings.”
She urged the public not to forget fish vendor Larry Buenafe who was killed in a landmine blast detonated by the NPA during an attack in Mandug last year, Buenafe’s two very young children, “and the many other orphaned children of other hapless, mostly poor civilians.”
She also asked the public not to forget the orphaned children “of our brave soldiers and police officers killed by the NPAs in the name of a rusty ideology and deranged revolution,” and Malysha Machora the infant who was killed during an NPA ambush in Bukidnon in November last year.
The infant’s death, along with other incidents, prompted the President to issue Proclamation 360, calling off the peace negotiations two days before the fifth round of formal talks on November 25 to 27, 2017.
In early December, the President issued Proclamation 374 designating the CPP and the NPA as terrorist organizations.
Mayor Duterte warned that if peace talks were revived, the NPA “will continue to terrorize government forces and civilians,” launch attacks and destroy property, recruit minors, farmers, Lumads, workers and students through its legal fronts.
“We should put a stop into the insanity of these terrorists — or more children will be orphaned, more civilians will be killed, more soldiers will die, and many more facilities and equipment will be burned, setting back development by a hundred years,” she said, adding government should “stop rewarding these terrorists with our attention, resources, and time.”
The mayor said suspending the peace talks “would not only mean ending the delusion of these terrorists, but would also allow the realization of long-delayed growth and the development of our countryside villages” and give “justice to the victims of these terrorists.”
Invest in peace
The mayor joined the delegation of the President to the Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan, China and his meeting with the Filipino community in Hong Kong.
At the Davao International Airport, she listened to her father in the early hours of Friday, deliver his arrival speech and answer questions from the media.
The President was asked on the timeline for the peace talks with the NDF. He replied that during the two-month period, “I will give my demands and they can also have theirs and that is where we start negotiating.”
He said he has invited leaders of the communist movement who are presently abroad to “come home… and we can talk.”
“I will give them my personal and official guarantee na during the two months na magpunta sila dito, they will not be arrested, they will not be molested, and they will not be whatever, caused any inconvenience,” he said.
He reiterated that during the talks, there should be a ceasefire, there should be no collection of revolutionary taxes, “no atrocities, no nothing.”
“Just come here as a plain citizen, you are protected by our policy of rapprochement with an open heart,” he said.
He said he hopes the communists will stop burning equipment, warning that if they would continue doing that, “forget about talking.”
To stop collection of revolutionary taxes, Duterte offered to spend for the expenses of leaders who would return to the country and vowed to have assistance and food delivered to all NPA camps “just to hold the line until such time maybe, in the fullness of God’s time, we might have a concrete and substantial peace agreement to sign.”
“If I want peace, I must invest in peace,” he said.
The peace negotiations with the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front had third party facilitators, Indonesia for the MNLF talks and Malaysia for the MILF talks. Negotiations were held in the countries of the third party facilitators.
In the peace negotiations between government and the NDF, the third party facilitator is the Royal Norwegian Government. Under the Duetrte administration, peace talks were held in Norway although some were held in the Netherlands when CPP founder and NDF consultant Jose Ma. Sison, who is based in Utrecht, was recovering from an illness. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews with a report from Antonio L. Colina IV)