Reds vow to step up ‘actions’

THE Communist Party of the Philippines on Wednesday told its cadres to intensify both armed and non-armed actions against the government, a day after President Rodrigo Duterte declared an all-out war on them.

“The Filipino people must intensify both their armed and non-armed struggles against all forms of oppression and exploitation,” the CPP said in an editorial in its official publication, Ang Bayan. “They must vigorously carry forward the national democratic revolution in order to lay down the conditions for a just and lasting peace.”

The communists also scored Duterte’s refusal to release all political prisoners as the NDF has demanded.

“[Duterte] makes the absurd claim that the release of all political prisoners is equivalent to a surrender... He disregards the basic fact that they have been charged with trumped up cases and are victims of a flagrant injustice,” the editorial read.

“Over the past months, Duterte has adamantly refused to release all political prisoners through a presidential amnesty proclamation, contrary to his promise,” the group said.

The communists also accused Duterte of offering a bilateral ceasefire “to pacify revolutionary forces” while peace talks were going on.

In a letter dated Feb. 7 addressed to CPP founder Jose Maria Sison and NDF chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili, Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza relayed Duterte’s instructions to formally end the peace talks with the termination of the 22-year Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig), which guaranteed free and unhindered passage to communist negotiators.

The agreement, formalized in 1995 under the Ramos administration, mandates the government to send the NDF a written notice of termination of the peace talks that would take effect only 30 days after the their receipt of the notice.

An NDF consultant confirmed that Sison had received the letter.

Leading to the termination of the Jasig, Duterte had earlier terminated the peace negotiations with the communists over a series of attacks on government troops, in violation of the rebels’ own unilateral ceasefire.

The Defense Department earlier called the communist rebels threats to national security after the President’s branded them as terrorists.

But the communist editorial accused the military of being the biggest stumbling block to the release of political prisoners. The group also said the NDF negotiating panel would remain open to reopening peace talks with the Duterte administration.

Communist insurgents
The NDF chief legal counsel Edre Olalia said the communists would oppose any government move against their consultants.

Olalia denied that the Jasig cancellation would remove the immunity privileges of the NDF consultants in leass than 30 days.

“Immunity guarantees will remain. That is the reason why these guarantees were agreed upon by the parties. It is not the military’s say-so that should be followed. It should be the principal,” he said.

He said the Communist Party agreed to the talks because of the Jasig, which ensures free movement and immunity from arrest, surveillance, interrogation, and other such actions for those involved in the peace talks.

Olalia also urged the President to talk to his former teacher, Sison, “in the spirit of good faith, a long friendship and student-teacher affinity.”

Sison questioned Duterte’s decision to cancel peace talks even with the recent successes.

“One more important question for everyone: Why terminate the peace negotiations when the third round of formal talks in Rome was successful and [we] scheduled the fourth round in Oslo for April 2-6,” Sison said in a Facebook post.

Duterte had earlier said that he is no longer keen on talking with Sison and the other rebel leaders “until they come to their senses.”

Agcaoili played down Duterte’s moves as the “usual threat” against the revolutionary movement.

“They ordered the arrest of our consultants, called us terrorists and terminated the Jasig and, in effect, the peace negotiations. Those are very drastic moves after a very successful round of negotiations,” he said.

“This is not the first time that an all-out war has been declared against the revolutionary forces. President Cory Aquino did it in 1987 after the Mendiola massacre. [Ousted President Joseph] Estrada too after signing the VFA [Visiting Forces Agreement]. We are used to these threats,” he said.

Malacañang, however, questioned the CPP’s unity, citing the disconnect of its leaders in The Netherlands and their ground forces here in the country.

Leftist members of the Cabinet questioned Duterte’s decision to end the peace talks even as they vowed to remain in government to “engage” within the Cabinet.

The leftists in Cabinet lamented the end of talks that made progress.

“The foremost concern of both parties in the peace negotiations is the interest of the Filipino people to address the roots of poverty and achieve a just and lasting peace. It is unfortunate that the talks have now come to a standstill,” said Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano, and National Anti-Poverty Commission Chairman Liza Maza in a joint statement Tuesday.

Duterte should not waste the gains achieved in the negotiation table, the leftist members of the Cabinet said.

“As heads of national government agencies tasked to address poverty and improve the quality of life of the Filipino, we believe that the GRP [government of the Republic of the Philippines] should move the peace negotiations with the NDFP [National Democratic Front of the Philippines] forward,” they said.

“This time, by pursuing peace, and through the political will of President Duterte, the talks have been productive. The government and the NDFP have never been closer in their articulation of a shared vision of a society that addresses the root causes of war, poverty and inequality.”

The three Cabinet members noted, the two sides were already discussing the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms, considered the “heart and soul” of the peace talks, when Duterte scrapped the negotiations.

Agcaoili said that it will be now up to leftist members of Duterte’s Cabinet whether they wanted to remain amid the fall of the peace talks with the government.

“It is Duterte’s decision, as well as theirs, whether to remain or not in their respective positions,” he said.

“It depends on the perception of those Cabinet officials on whether, by remaining, they can still continue to be of service to the people or not,” he added.

Also on Wednesday, Iglesia Filipina Independente Bishop Felixberto Calang said he was saddened by the termination of the peace talks.

“This curtain call on the talks diminishes the significant agreements signed and the high level of optimism that we saw in the third round of talks in Rome, Italy,” Calang said.

“We believe it is still possible for the negotiations to continue even if armed skirmishes will serve as a thorny backdrop to the talks, as this had been the prevailing condition under the Estrada, Ramos, and Arroyo governments,” Calang added.

The leftist Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said the termination of peace talks signaled “intensifying fascist repression against the people.”

“Only the fascists, imperialists and local oligarchs are rejoicing over these grim developments. Meanwhile, it will be the people who will carry the brunt and suffer the effects of increased military operations. There are already reports of attacks and harassment even against non-combatants and personalities of the legal mass movement,” the group said.

Bayan said it is an established fact that no “all-out war” approach, not even during the height of the US-backed Marcos government, has ever succeeded. 

The root causes of the armed conflict cannot be solved by intensified military operations, Bayan said. With Sandy Araneta, Lance Baconguis and Rio N. Araja

Topics: Communist Party of the Philippines , President Rodrigo Duterte , Jose Maria Sison , Peace talks , Fidel Agcaoili , Secretary Jesus Dureza , Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) , NDF
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