The opinion of Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Maria Sison on the peace talks does not matter with the Philippine government, the Palace said Monday, adding Sison has lost influence over the New People’s Army.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte remains open to the idea of achieving peace even after publicly stopping the peace negotiations with the communists last month.
“The President has always made himself open to any talks on peace. He always says, ‘Let’s leave a little window [open]’,” Panelo told reporters.
This developed as the President seeks the creation of a new peace panel to cap the decades-old armed conflict with the communist rebels, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez said on Monday.
In a statement, Galvez said the President plans the formulation of a new panel that will “directly engage the people on the ground to address the fundamentals of the problem.”
“The panel will oversee the localized peace engagements. It will act as the adviser for local peace dialogues through the establishment of protocols and other legal and systematic procedures,” Galvez said.
“This includes the vital component of a security lens in this process, hence the need for former security officials to be part of the panel,” he added.
In his speech over the weekend, Duterte again floated the possibility of forming a new peace panel to negotiate with the CPP.
But Panelo said “nothing will change” with the localized peace talks, and that they would continue.
“We don’t have it [peace panel] right now. He hasn’t created anything. It’s still an idea,” Panelo said.
At the campaign rally of the ruling PDP-Laban in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, Duterte said: “I’ll look for a new one. New methods, new people to talk to. Maybe one, two, three of them are from the military. Maybe around five. Two civilian members, three from the military.”
He said the previous peace panel was dissolved because of the slow pace of the peace negotiations.
“It took too long. Nothing happened in three years,” Duterte said.
But the National Democratic Front quickly shot down the President’s idea of creating a military-led peace panel.
For Sison, instead of forming a “peace” panel, the President would only create a “war” panel with his plan to include more military men to represent the government in the negotiating table.
“The NDF would not want to be baited into accepting a war panel, or a panel that is dominated by the military whose purpose is mainly to seek the impossible, such as the surrender of the revolutionary forces especially the NPA, the New People’s Army,” Sison said.
“Duterte is not serious and sincere in resuming the peace negotiations. He wants to impose a war panel on the NDF, and the NDF will not accept that.”
But Panelo said the Palace could not care less about Sison’s rantings.
“It doesn’t matter whether he likes it or not. From our side, we feel that he’s not being followed by his men,” Panelo said.
In March, Duterte announced the termination of the peace negotiations between the government and the communist rebels.
He said he would no longer entertain any intervention or persuasion to hold peace talks with the NDF.
As the Duterte administration advances the government’s intention to create peace, Galvez, meanwhile, found it “unfortunate” that the CPP rejected the President’s another attempt to take the path to peace.
“It is but fitting to educate Mr. Sison, who has been living in a foreign land for decades and is no longer in touch with actual realities in the Philippine situation, that the new peace panel is in line with the whole-of-nation approach as embodied in Executive Order 70 aimed at addressing the root causes of the problem,” he said.
“The government has learned its lessons, albeit the hard way, from the previous formal negotiations that produced lopsided agreements that are not totally beneficial to the people,” he added.
According to Galvez, the 80-year-old communist leader and his cohorts have been using The Hague declaration and the provisions of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) “not to push the peace negotiations forward but as tools to delay the resolution of the integrals of the conflict.”
“All the while, they continued with their manipulation of and attacks on the civilian communities and state security forces,” Galvez said.
“Worse, the leadership of the CPP-NPA-NDF is using the previous peace agreements not to pursue real peace but to meet their objective of overthrowing the legitimate government,” he added.
According to Galvez, the government is creating an environment for the peace process to progress and move forward.
“The new framework will provide practical, rational, and objective principles of local peace engagements that will end the manipulation and deception against the government and the people,” he said.
“This paradigm shift is the result of historical facts and lessons derived from the previous talks,” Galvez continued.
“This is the essence of the peace talks: To have enabling agreements based on mutual trust and understanding. The ultimate objective is to create a just, harmonious, and peaceful society and conflict-resilient communities,” he added.