A day after terminating the peace talks, President  Rodrigo Duterte labeled communist rebels as terrorists and ordered the arrest of jailed leftist leaders who were allowed to join the negotiations. Philstar.com/File photo

 

Duterte labels CPP-NPA-NDF a terror group
(The Philippine Star) - February 6, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines -  A day after terminating the peace talks, President Duterte labeled communist rebels as terrorists and ordered the arrest of jailed leftist leaders who were allowed to join the negotiations.

Duterte said the rebels committed atrocities despite the goodwill gestures displayed by the government.

“Nagmamagandang loob ka na nga, ipapahiya pa ako sa mga sagot ng p***** in*** akala mo kung sino (You show goodwill and yet those sons of b****** who were acting as if they were somebody embarrass me with their answers),” Duterte said during his visit to the wake of three soldiers yesterday in Cagayan de Oro City.  

“You give them all the leeway and everything and you (respond to me with stupidity)…From now on I will consider the CPP-NPA- NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front) a terrorist group,” he added.

The NDF, the communist group’s political arm, represents the CPP and its armed wing the NPA in the peace talks.

“I am asking the military and the immigration to be on the lookout. Arrest them again,” he added.

“Do not ever return here or they will land in Muntinlupa,” the President said.

Duterte disclosed that the government had to talk to the judiciary to facilitate the release of rebel leaders who are part of the communist negotiating panel.

“They were released on the condition that they will participate in Oslo talks. The only way to do that is to give them the right to bail. Actually, they are leaders. They’re not qualified but we have to convince the judges,” the President said.

“Despite the objections of the judiciary, nakiusap na lang kami (we just pleaded) so the talks will succeed because personally, I’m desperately trying to find a way to end this 50 years of war,” he added. “By the way that they behaved, they do not want it and so I will oblige.”

Duterte said the communist leaders are free to seek asylum in the Netherlands if they want to avoid arrest.

“You’re wanted upon your arrival. I will arrest you and place you back in prison. OK? Now if you do not want to go back, you are fugitives, we cancel your passports and inform the international police for an international warrant,” he said.

“Now if you want to seek asylum in the Netherlands. Go ahead. You know the most ignominious thing that can happen to a Filipino is to die in somebody else’s country. You want that for yourself? I’ll give it to you.”

Security forces ready

With the peace talks now terminated, Duterte said security forces are ready for any rebel offensive.

“They can begin their attacks and we are prepared. I will use the assets. We have airplanes, we have jets, I will use all of them. I leave it to the military to do its job, I will not interfere,” the President said.

The government, however, is ready to accept NPA members who will surrender to live peaceful lives.

“I’m offering you peace. Just go down and I’ll find money to place you in settlement and I’ll proceed with the land reform,” Duterte said.

Duterte, who considers himself a leftist, said the NPA members are just bandits and that the Geneva Convention does not apply to them.  

The Geneva Conventions are rules that apply only in times of armed conflict and seek to protect people who are not or are no longer taking part in hostilities; these include the sick and wounded of armed forces on the field, wounded, sick and shipwrecked members of armed forces at sea, prisoners of war and civilians.

Duterte said achieving peace with the communists does not seem to be possible within his generation.

On Saturday, Duterte announced that he is scrapping the peace talks with communist rebels and instructed government negotiators to “fold up the tents and come home.”

He made the statement after the government and the communists lifted their respective unilateral ceasefires following a disagreement over the NDF’s demand to free hundreds of people whom it claims to be political prisoners.

The NDF is demanding the release of about 400 prisoners, saying it is in line with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law signed in 1998.

Duterte has refused to yield to the demand, which he described as tantamount to granting amnesty. The government has so far freed 23 rebel leaders and has allowed some ranking NPA members to join the peace talks.

“We started with 18 and we came up with 23 leaders and now it’s 400. If that’s the case, we might as well surrender,” the President said.

Duterte said the peace talks would remain canceled “unless there is a compelling reason that will benefit the interest of the nation.”

The President lifted the ceasefire after NPA rebels killed three soldiers in Bukidnon and kidnapped two others last week.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the termination of the peace talks was disappointing.

“President Duterte has declared the suspension of peace talks between (government) and CPP-NDF-NPA. He will likewise direct the Philippine delegation to return home,” Abella said.

“This is deeply disappointing as final and lasting peace has been one of his deepest aspirations for the nation,” he added.

Hours before Duterte called the rebels terrorists, Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Ana Maria Banaag said the government remains open to talking peace with the rebels.

“The members of the peace panel would still talk about, you know, permanent peace and how to go about the parameters of going through a permanent ceasefire,” Banaag told state-run radio station dzRB.

“It’s really hard for them also to control their people on the ground. However…the peace panel will endeavor still to talk and negotiate for peace,” she added.

Banaag said the President would not bar leftist officials from joining Cabinet meetings.

“Malacañang is open to all negotiations…they are still part of the Cabinet and they have the confidence of the President,” she said.

Banaag also said the military would continue to join the fight against drugs despite the lifting of the ceasefire with the rebels.

Not giving up on peace

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said the government could not give up on peace but would have to follow Duterte’s track in achieving this.

“If there is anyone who passionately dreams of – and works on – bringing about sustainable peace in the land, it is President Duterte. His judgment calls are directed towards this goal. At the moment, he has clearly spoken on the directions we all in government should take. Let’s take guidance from these recent declarations,” Dureza said.

“As I always say, the road to just and lasting peace is not easy to traverse. There are humps and bumps, and curbs and detours along the way. What is important is that we all stay the course,” Dureza added.

A GMA News Online report quoted Dan Borjal, NDF spokesman, as saying that the NDF is still willing to continue the peace talks with the government.

The NDF believes that the peace talks can resume without a ceasefire agreement, Borjal added.

“In past administrations talks could be held even without ceasefire. Ten important agreements were signed then,” Borjal said.

Duterte announced he was abandoning the peace talks while the communist leaders are still abroad for the negotiations. They were in Rome in January for the third round of the peace talks. The fourth round of the peace talks was set on Feb. 22 to 25 in the Netherlands.

Communist leaders like Jose Maria Sison, CPP founder, and Luis Jalandoni, who was NDF’s long-time chief negotiator, have been living in self-exile in the Netherlands.

“I don’t know if they will be granted asylum there but with the rebellion, if you are just a member, it’s not a grave offense maybe. But the leaders, they should be in prison without bail,” Duterte added.

At the same time, Duterte called on the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to conduct all-out offensive operations against the communist rebels.

He said he need not outline the directives to the military “because they know their jobs.”

“If they (NPA) want to extend it for another 50 years, so be it. I will be happy to accommodate you,” he added, stressing that he tried to walk the extra mile for peace.

Among the communist leaders who were released from prison to join the peace talks were: Benito Tiamzon and wife Wilma; Concha Araneta Bocala, Adelberto Silva, Alfredo Mapano, Ernesto Lorenza, Tirso Alcantara, Eduardo Genelsa, Ariel Arbitrario, Runel Saluta, Jaime Soledad, Keneddy Bangibang, Pedro Codaste, Porferio Tuna and Alan Jazmines.

They are facing charges ranging from frustrated murder to murder in relation to NPA-initiated attacks during various timelines around the country. They were released on bail in August last year, barely a few months after Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire with the CPP-NPA-NDF.

In a media interview after he marked the fifth death anniversary of his mother Soledad at a local cemetery in Davao City on Saturday night, the visibly dismayed Duterte also said he is no longer interested to deal with Sison.

The Philippine government has worked for the delisting of Sison and the NPA from the terror list of the United States. 

“They can retire, all of them. For those who are released by the government, they should, on their own volition, return here and go back to prison or else I’ll be forced to . . . I’m alerting the intelligence community to keep track of where they are now,” Duterte said. 

“Those who were released temporarily to talk with us in Oslo, they should come back and submit themselves to the jurisdiction of this government (where) they are still prisoners. Walang pardon, walang amnesty, wala lahat (No pardon, no amnesty, nothing),” Duterte added.

“For those serving sentence, they should serve out (their sentences),” he said.

When asked about Sison, Duterte said he sees no reason to talk with him. “I am not interested to listen to them for what they intend to do. For after all, they have been fighting the government.”

Never too late

Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto said yesterday both sides must be pulled back from the brink of reigniting the conflict by “reconsidering incendiary statements issued during the past week and revoking directives issued.”

“It is never too late to give peace another chance. In the search for a settlement, one must never tire of negotiation,” Recto said.

“There is no constituency for war in this country. Parties must not engage in one that will make all of us collateral damages of their folly,” he said.

He said as the lure of fighting beckons, it is perhaps time that both sides are reminded of lessons from the communist insurgency, which has lasted almost half a century, and reportedly killed nearly 50,000 people.

“One is for government to realize that guns alone will not defeat an insurgency with deeply rooted social causes. And rebels must explore the prospect that more concessions can be won on the negotiating table than on the battlefield,” Recto said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said it appears that the NDF, the umbrella organization of all mainstream communist organizations in the country, has lost control of the CPP-NPA.

He said Duterte also withdrew the government ceasefire and suspended talks as a challenge to the CPP-NPA-NDF to get their act together.

Lacson also found the demand of the NDF to release all 400 political prisoners as tantamount to Duterte granting rebels amnesty. – With Paolo Romero, Ben Serrano

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