Malacañang on Saturday questioned the sincerity of the communist rebels seeking talks with the Philippine government following the Reds’ attacks on police and military that prompted the state peace panel to scrap the fifth round of negotiations for long-term truce held in The Netherlands.
“The government of the Philippines will not proceed with the scheduled 5th rounds of peace negotiations in The Netherlands,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said, questioning “the sincerity of the CPP/NPA/NDFP, if they truly are in pursuit of peaceful coexistence.”
''The Duterte administration would rather pursue the path of genuine dialogue to build a nation worthy of its citizens,” he added.
On the eve of peace talks, the Communist Party of the Philippines called on its armed wing New People’s Army to intensify attacks against troops as a way of opposing martial law. Responding to the call, the NPA on Saturday exploded land mines in Bukidnon, wounding two Special Action Force policemen.
Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza said that the government panel “is now left without any other recourse but to announce... that it will not proceed to participate in the scheduled 5th rounds of peace negotiations” until there is an “enabling environment” for negotiations to continue.
“The most serious development of late and which puts in great jeopardy as to whether or not se can still keep the court of peace in this peace table is the blatant publicly announced decision of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the political organ of our counterparts across the table who are here, ordering their forces on the ground to accelerate and intensify attacks against the government in the face of the declaration of martial law in Mindanao,” Dureza said in a statement.
Dureza cited as “the most serious development” the communist leadership’s “blatant publicly announced decision... to accelerate and intensify attacks against the government in the face of martial law in Mindanao.”
Communist leaders based in Utretch, headed by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines chief political consultant and CPP founder Jose Maria Sison, and chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili recommended then to their cadres based here in the country to “reconsider” their attack order, after the government side “clarified that the NPA is not a target” of martial law.
Duterte had placed Mindanao under martial law after gunfights erupted between government troops and the terrorist Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups in Marawi City on Tuesday.
The Reds had since then blamed Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who allegedly said that the NPA is one of the targets of Duterte’s Mindanao-wide martial law order.
After the government informed the NDFP of a possible cancellation of the fifth round of talks being held at the seaside town of Noordwijk, government negotiator Hernani Braganza said that while they sought a 10-minute break, they were caught off guard by the sudden press briefing called by the NDF's senior adviser Luis Jalandoni, who was first to break the news to the media and called the government’s announcement as “unacceptable.”
“[The negotiation] has been cancelled by the GRP [government] panel,” Jalandoni said. “Ang sabi nila continuing NPA [New People’s Army] offensives pero ang mali doon, hindi nila binabanggit concrete reality on the ground that requires the NPA to defend the people on the ground.”
Jalandoni added that the cancellation of the fifth round “gives the indication that they don’t want to go into negotiations to discuss about CARHRIHL [Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law] agreement, human rights... international humanitarian law.”
“They have to do something to take responsibility for it and they have to take responsibility for stopping these or CASER [Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms],” he said.
In a press conference, government chief negotiator and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III clarified that while there is no breakdown yet in the peace talks, “the government’s position won’t change unless the CPP rescind its pronouncements.”
“The CPP’s statements on intensified attacks on the military is not conducive for the peace talks to continue,” Bello said.
Bello added that the termination of the peace talks would depend on the CPP Central Committee, if they will not take back their “attack” orders against the military.
Sources who were privy to the talks said that the instruction to “call off” the talks given the CPP’s orders came from President Rodrigo Duterte himself during an executive session at Davao City on Thursday, before the panel left for Amsterdam to proceed with the fifth round.
Among the issues considered by Duterte was the CPP-NPA-NDF’s “lack of control over their forces on the ground,” one government source said.
Lorenzana, whom the CPP leadership blamed for their attack order, denied that they were a target of the martial law declaration by Duterte.
“We would like to make it clear that in the implementation of Martial Law in Mindanao, the Armed Forces of the Philippines [AFP] will not specifically target the New People’s Army as alleged by NDFP Chief Consultant Jose Maria Sison,” Lorenzana said.
Lorenzana, however, called on the CPP-NPA not to “force the government’s hand” and abide by the peace process to move forward with their negotiations.
“Huwag na kayong makigulo pa sa nangyayari ngayon sa Mindanao. Do not force the government’s hand. Immediately stop all illegal activities and abide by the true spirit of the peace process. This is the only way we can move forward,” he said.
With or without the martial law, members of the NPA will be “dealt” with if they “engage in criminal and illegal acts such as kidnapping, extortion, murder, and the destruction of property,” Lorenzana added.
During the fourth round of talks last April, both panels agreed on an Interim Joint Ceasefire but ground rules must be set first to render it implementable.
The guidelines shall govern the presence of armed elements of either party in local communities, the designation of buffer zones, the definition of prohibited, hostile and provocative acts, and the possible creation of a neutral monitoring body.
The interim ceasefire shall become permanent when the Final Peace Agreement shall have been signed, which will usher the end of hostilities and disposition of forces.
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