Joma Sison: Reds won’t pull out of talks due to aborted plenum

BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews / 30 December) — Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chair Jose Maria Sison assured Monday that they will not pull out from the negotiating table merely because the Army spoiled the scheduled communist plenum in Surigao del Norte.

“There was no exchange of gunfire and there was no bloody incident. This is too small (of an) issue to warrant a pull out from the negotiations,” said Sison, also the chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Sison, who is on self-exile in Utrecht, The Netherlands, spoke to reporters Monday morning via Skype after the Army spoiled the planned plenum and mass wedding ceremony of their supporters in Bacuag town.

He said the NPA units and top leaders of the communist party have already pulled out from Bacuag Monday morning.

Sison, however, did not discount the possibility that the NPA Front 16 would file a protest for the provocation allegedly committed by the Army.

He said that the NPA unit could raise their protest to the NDFP negotiating panel, which will in turn discuss it with the government panel headed by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.

Major General Nemecio Gacal, Jr., chief of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, said on Monday that the communist rebels violated ceasefire conditions with their attempt to hold their plenum and mass wedding of their members near a community.

Gacal stressed that the ceasefire agreement was “clear that the rebels should not have ventured out from their camps.”

But they have chosen to hold their activity near Sitio Bay-ang, Barangay Lahi in Gigaquit town, which is a “clear violation of the ceasefire,” Gacal said.

“It would take only a complaint from a resident and I will send in the troops,” he said.

The Army deployed soldiers and 105mm howitzers in Barangay Lahi ready to assault the rebels’ position.

Gacal revealed they got wind of the events being planned by the rebels from village officials.

“There were feelers from officials asking us what if the rebels hold a plenum in their village. What would happen?” he said.

Gacal said they confirmed the information after police officers and soldiers arrested two communist rebels and two other supporters bringing a big quantity of supply to their waiting comrades in Barangay Lahi.

The rebels have invited journalists from the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Iligan and Davao to cover the event.

By late Sunday afternoon, the rebels monitored the build-up of troops in Gigaguit town.

Ka Oto, spokesperson of NPA Front 16, advised reporters who were about to cover the event not to proceed anymore.

The reporters were staying in a hotel in Butuan City and would have travelled to nearby Bacuag town, venue of the plenum and mass wedding.

“Its no longer safe for you to come here,” Ka Oto said.