"The peace talks with the Reds is definitely over."
If there are still doubts that the political negotiations between the national government and the communist-led National Democratic Front have reached an inevitable, irrevocable dead-end, the recent decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to dissolve the government negotiating panel should put them to rest.
Duterte’s pronouncement that the NDF and its two allied organizations, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA) will have to wait for the next president if they expect any possibility of a resumption of any negotiations spells the doom of what had promised to be fruitful talks at the start of his term in mid-2016.
With three years to go before the Duterte administration walks off into the sunset, we can therefore expect a search-and-destroy and take-no-prisoners policy by the military designed to bring the 50-year-old insurgency to its knees.
The recent arrest of what the NDF claims as a “peace consultant” and his companion, a retired priest, and the filing of charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives against them—a standard operating procedure now, it would seem, against arrested rebel suspects so they would stay behind bars for a long, long time, indicates a stepped-up drive against the communist insurgency by the military. Several other prominent “peace consultants” earlier released from prison to take part in negotiation in Europe have since been rearrested as well.
The government now wants local peace talks as an alternative to the scuttled national-level negotiations that had been held off and on since the post-EDSA era.
The idea of local peace talks sounds good in theory: talk to the local NPA leaders, convince them that armed struggle is futile because the government is addressing their grievances, such as agrarian reform, and even offer them cash for arms, housing, and livelihood assistance.
But will the rebels bite this tactic, and stream to military camps to surrender?
That’s highly unlikely. The military may be able to convince some of the rebels to go down from the hills and return to a normal life in the social mainstream, but probably not in sufficient numbers to dismantle the rebel apparatus in the countryside. We’re talking here of armed struggle that’s been going on for half-a century, or spanning two generations, and the aging communist leaders and their second liners steeped in Marxism-Leninism-Maoism aren’t likely to give up so easily.
Let’s kill all the lawyers?
The famous quote was uttered by the character ‘Dick the Butcher’ in William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, but it looks like someone—or perhaps a group of people, we really don’t know at this point—may have taken to heart the Shakespearian line quite literally, with devastating results.
A total of 38 lawyers have been killed during the Duterte administration. The latest fatality, lawyer Rex Jasper Lopoz, was gunned down by unidentified men on March 13 evening in front of a shopping mall in Tagum City, Davao del Norte.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines has condemned the killing, of Lopoz as the most recent “in a quick succession of violent attacks” against members of the Bar.
“We are almost losing count, but there have been 38 such reported killings since Atty. Rogelio Bato Jr. was killed by unidentified gunmen in Tacloban, Leyte on August 23, 2016,” the IBP said.
The 40,000-strong lawyers’ group urged the police to solve the cases, including the murder of former Cebu City Prosecutor Mary Ann Castro in January 2019 and the abduction of lawyer Alwyn Mendoza in Nueva Ecija in February.
“The series of unsolved crimes against lawyers has germinated a dark halo of fear that has paralyzed the most important pillars of the justice system,” the IBP said. “Murder and other forms of mindless violence have no place in civilized society. Lawyers are professionals who must not be associated with the perceived crimes of their clients,” they added.
We agree completely.
The IBP is correct in urging the Supreme Court to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation of the series of killings of lawyers.
The High Tribunal should initiate a dialogue among the SC, IBP, the military and the police, as well as NGOs to ensure the safety of lawyers nationwide.
Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin said last year that he would ask his colleagues to conduct an independent probe into the rash of killings of lawyers.
Whatever happened to his pledge? Is he waiting for more murders to occur until he becomes all by his lonesome the last lawyer standing in this country?