NATIONAL Security Adviser Eduardo Año on Wednesday welcomed exploratory talks with the communist rebels but said these should be free of any preconditions.
In particular, he described as “premature” demands issued by the communists shortly after the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) agreed to resume peace negotiations.
The demands include:
- The release of NDFP peace consultants, allowing them to take part in the discussions and negotiations.
- The rescinding of the “terrorist” tag of the NDFP, Luis Jalandoni, the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army, and other personnel of the NDFP.
- The dismantling of the National Task Force (NTF)-ELCAC, the repeal of the Anti-Terror Law, and the withdrawal of AFP soldiers conducting “localized peace negotiations” and “community support.”
- The release of more than 800 political prisoners
“All of these demands from the CPP-NPA are premature,” Año said in a statement read by NSC Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya during a press conference of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
Año said the lifting of the terrorist tag needs to follow a process spelled out under the Anti-Terrorism Act and should be a result of the signing of a final peace agreement.
In a statement, Año said, “The NTF-ELCAC will sustain gains and further advance the delivery of basic services, access to livelihood opportunities and complete the infrastructure development projects in isolated, conflict-affected communities.”
He said the NTF-ELCAC will not relent in defending citizens from the threat of communist terrorist groups by maintaining peace and order.
He emphasized it is of utmost importance to secure the life, liberty, and properties of all Filipinos through focused military operations and law enforcement to prevent lawlessness and bloodshed.
“The Armed Forces of the Philippines and PNP will continue with its campaign to defeat all armed threats to the country, including the NPA. They will continue to sustain their operational tempo to further weaken the NPA’s capacity to sow violence in their last remaining influenced communities,” Año said.
He added that the task force will continue to prioritize the dismantling of the 20 remaining weakened guerrilla fronts.
“We cannot and will not stop pursuing peace. We do not seek to stamp out our fellow Filipinos who have been duped into committing terrorist acts by false ideology, but rather aim to lift them up to work with them hand in hand as brothers and sisters in nation building,” said Año.
Nevertheless, Año said the NTF ELCAC will work for the end of the communist armed struggle, mindful that the rebels are still Filipinos entitled to amnesty.
He added that, ultimately the overarching goal is true reconciliation where former rebels successfully rejoin mainstream society and become productive citizens of the country.
In other developments:
- The Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity On Wednesday said that the President’s exploratory dialogue with communist groups is a new peace process and not a resumption of the previous dialogues. In an interview on government TV, Presidential Assistant Wilben Mayor said there are no preconditions and no ceasefire between the government and rebel groups. “This conversation is new, unconditional. We are not referring to anything previously discussed,” he said in Filipino. He added that anti-insurgency operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the maintenance of peace and order by the Philippine National Police would still continue amid the exploratory talks.
- Senator Ronald dela Rosa defended Vice President Sara Duterte, saying she was not contradicting President Marcos when she spoke out against his peace initiative. “She’s just appealing. It’s just normal that they have conflicting views. Knowing the VP has been a resident of Mindanao for so long… She indeed felt the problem of insurgency. She knows what these people have been doing,” Dela Rosa said. He added that the communist rebels have been strengthening their forces while peace talks were ongoing.