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Terror tag stays on Reds until gov’t, NDF finish peace accord, says Año

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A top security official on Wednesday ruled out a National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) demand that the government immediately remove the terrorist tag on the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA), saying this could be done after both sides reach a final peace settlement.

Malacañang on Tuesday said the government and the National NDF agreed to resume peace negotiations to end one of

the longest-running insurgencies in the world.

“That cannot be easily granted,” said National Security Adviser Eduardo Año, speaking in a mix of English and Filipino. “It has to go through a process.”

A former Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Año said the rebels must bewilling to abandon armed struggle, and if their mindset is sincere, both sides can proceed with negotiations.

The removal of the terrorist tag—which was slapped on the NDF-CPP-NPA by the Anti-Terrorism Council in June 2021—could be lifted once there is a final peace settlement, Año said, likening this to a one-time grant of amnesty.

Año’s remarks came in response to the NDF’s demand for the removal of its terrorist tag.

The government and NDF agreed to a “principled and peaceful resolution of the armed conflict” through the signing of a joint statement in Oslo, Norway on Nov. 23.

Año said they have grown wary of past peace negotiations with the communist movement and its allies where they imposed many demands from the government, including the release of its jailed leaders.

“We don’t want a repeat of past incidents where they had so many demands but there were no talks. As we have seen in history, thosereleased did not return. They went into hiding in the mountains. So those are our apprehensions,” he added.

Año said military and law enforcement operations against communist insurgents would continue while the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict will continue bringing development projects to far-flung barangays.

He said he is not inclined to recommend a suspension of military operations and a ceasefire with the CPP-NPA, noting that these insurgents have a history of committing atrocities even during the holiday season.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), meanwhile, voiced its support for exploratory talks to end one of the world’s longest insurgencies.

“The willingness of the National Democratic Front of the Philippinesto pursue peaceful means of effecting societal reforms, other than armed struggle, is also a welcome development.” the AFP said in a statement. “We expect that all members of the underground movement will follow its lead.”

The AFP said it would continue its campaign to defeat all armed threats to the security of the people and the state, the NPA included.

“We will sustain operational tempo to further weaken the NPA’s capability to sow violence in our peaceful communities,” it said.

Also on Wednesday, the government’s peace negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said she was optimistic about a possible resumption of peace talks.

In an interview on ANC, Coronel-Ferrer said she was “more hopeful” with peace talks under the Marcos administration due to several reasons.

She cited President Marcos’ management style, which allows his alter egos to do their job with less interference.

Marcos “is not as volatile in terms of disposition as the previous president, not as… [prone to] resorting to violence, verbally, as well as in actual terms as the previous president,” she said.

Malacañang on Tuesday said the government and the National NDF agreed to resume peace negotiations to end one of the longest-running insurgencies in the world.

The two parties have met informally since 2022 in the Netherlands and Norway for discussions facilitated by the Norwegian government. They reached a consensus on Nov. 23, 2023, according to the Presidential Communications Office.

Both sides “acknowledge the deep-rooted socioeconomic and political grievances and agree to come up with a framework that sets the priorities for the peace negotiation.”

Coronel-Ferrer said the NDF communique mentioned a “transformation” of the NPA, the group’s military wing.

“That’s very important because now it does look like they are already imagining a possible transformation,” she said.

On Tuesday, the peace initiative drew support from lawmakers led by Speaker Martin Romualdez, who backed the President’s commitment to pursue peace talks with the communists.

“I express my wholehearted support for the decision of our President… to reopen negotiations that will allow for peace talks among the groups included in the CPP-NDF-NPA. This is a bold and important step towards our goal of achieving a peaceful, united, and progressive nation,” Romualdez said.

“As the leader of our country, our President has shown his willingness to listen to the grievances of our rebel brothers and find a solution to put an end to all the unrest in our communities,” Romualdez said.

Romualdez also said the House leadership also welcomed the openness of the CPP-NDF-NPA to reconnect with the government and work together to end poverty and other social ills.

“We are aware that a return to negotiations does not mean a ceasefire on either side. This is just the beginning of the long road we will travel to peace.

“However, I hope that there will not be any conditions that will stop the peace talks. Both sides should not lose heart regardless of the obstacles they face in the negotiations. We will achieve true prosperity when guns are turned into plows and tractors, when hands that used to fight unite to build our nation,” Romualdez said.

Reps. Arlene Brosas of Gabriela and France Castro of ACT Teachers said the joint statement of the NDFP and the government is a significant step towards the pursuit of a just and lasting peace in the country.

“While we acknowledge the potential of this development, the journey will still be a long and challenging one. The struggle to solve the root causes of armed conflict, including poverty, social backwardness, and lack of social justice remains a pressing and formidable task,” Brosas said.

Castro added: “It is good that after six years both panels are going back to the negotiating table and starting from where they left off.”

“We hope that the Marcos Jr. administration would stick with the peace negotiations and not listen to the hawks and peace saboteurs…,” she added.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian described the resumption of talks as a breakthrough that could propel the nation toward peace and progress.

He said this meaningful step was an indication that both sides are dedicated to the welfare and development of Filipinos.

“This reflects a shared commitment to prioritize diplomacy over conflict,” he said.

In other developments:

* The Department of Justice (DOJ) expressed support for the granting of amnesty to several rebel groups, including the CPP-NPA-NDF. “We affirm our commitment to the rule of law and understand the necessity of these measures in fostering peace and national reconciliation,” the DOJ said in a statement. The DOJ said it is prepared to work with the National Amnesty Commission in processing applications for amnesty.

* The National Youth Commission (NYC) warned young Filipinos not to be persuaded by a new recruitment campaign video produced and being spread by the NPA. During a public hearing by the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, NYC Chairperson Ronald Cardema showed the video that he said targets those 18 years old and below as recruits. With PNA

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