Insincerity and treachery

The broader view - Harry Roque - The Philippine Star

True to form, Vice President Sara Duterte did not mince words in voicing her strong opposition to the resumption of peace talks between the Philippine government and the CPP-NPA-NDFP. A peace accord with the Communist Terrorist Group (CTG) is a pact with the devil, she cautioned the Marcos administration. 

Given Inday’s knowledge and experience in dealing with insurgents, the concurrent co-vice chair of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) has the authority to speak on the issue. Even if it contradicts the position of her UniTeam alliance partner, President Bongbong Marcos, Jr. 

One of the VP’s crowning achievements as former Davao City mayor is ending the diabolical reign of the CPP-NPA. It is a success story that bears repeating. And for the national government to take careful note of. 

As the local chief executive of the first Mindanao city to be declared ‘insurgency-free,’ Sara institutionalized localized peace talks with communist rebels, particularly in the latter’s erstwhile stronghold of Paquibato district. Between 2019 and 2021, at least 125 rebel returnees benefited from the city government’s peacebuilding initiatives. The Peace 911 program addressed the root causes of insurgency in remote barangays through peace economy, good governance and rule of law, ancestral domain protection and rehabilitation and healing.

Reign of terror

So, I applaud our ‘ballsy’ leader for hitting the nail on the head. The reason why the armed struggle has become one of the world’s longest is not for the lack of trying on the government’s part. It is due to the treachery and duplicity of the terrorist group. History has taught us that the CTG’s insincerity has led to the demise of negotiations with our previous administrations.

In 2017, former president Rodrigo Duterte officially terminated all government engagement with the CTG. Digong accused the terrorist group of killing soldiers, law enforcers and innocent civilians while negotiating for peace. The United Nations Security Council, through a 2001 Resolution, refers to terrorism as criminal acts against civilians that provoke a public state of terror or compel a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any acts which are considered offenses under international conventions and protocols. The Resolution states any acts related to terrorism cannot be justified by political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic or religious considerations.

Thus, Inday Sara reminded the government to honor the fallen heroes and victims of the CTG’s reign of terror since the 1960s. The conflict has already claimed 40,000 lives, according to a Reuters report. Even Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Romeo Brawner admitted in an interview that many Filipinos and soldiers share the VP’s sentiments. Hence, some soldiers are reluctant to support the government’s decision.

I am also glad that Sen. Imee Marcos agrees with the VP’s stance. Imee is among the few vocal supporters of Sara, who has been targeted by several politicians closely or strategically allied with Speaker Martin Romualdez. (It is no secret that there is a gap between Sara and Martin.) The brilliant legislator also quashed the opposition’s call for Inday to resign due to her policy differences with the Marcos administration. The alliance between PBBM and VP Sara can survive their differing views on the issue. Further, I do not recall the opposition demanding the same from ex-vice president Leni Robredo when the latter criticized the Duterte government while still a Cabinet member. The double standard is plainly ridiculous.

Opposing views

I share the opinion of Inday Sara that discourse and debates are the hallmarks of a vibrant democracy. In Borjal vs. Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court notes that the healthy efflorescence of public debate and opinion are shining linchpins of truly democratic societies. Therefore, the government should welcome disagreements and divergent views on issues that threaten the lives and well-being of the citizenry. 

The VP remains deferential to the President’s foreign policy decisions, and rightfully so. The Constitution grants PBBM with the power to chart the course of our international relations. But the administration or the opposition should not expect the NTF-ELCAC official to keep mum on issues such as national security, peace and order and terrorism. Sara has a personal stake in these issues. In the past, she witnessed individuals killed or maimed by terroristic attacks. She welcomed rebel returnees to the fold of the law. Her city administration extended continued assistance to former rebel-infested communities. 

I understand her frustration and apprehension. If the government compels the military to lay down their arms against the CPP-NPA, I expect the CTG members to resume their illegal and extrajudicial activities in the countryside. For instance, demanding revolutionary taxes from telecom companies and other businesses, recruitment and conscription of young people especially from indigenous communities and the killing of soldiers, police officers and fellow Filipinos not aligned with their ideology.

Moreover, the agreement between the government and NDFP was done in haste. I am not even sure if the NTF-ELCAC has any involvement in the matter. Was Sara even consulted by the government peace panel?

Unlikely alliance

Seemingly, the Makabayan bloc has become strange bedfellows with the majority coalition in the Lower House. The communist sympathizers have assumed the role of an attack dog against the Vice President. I cannot help but wonder if there is a strategic alliance between these leftist politicians and the Speaker/House leadership. And whether the peace accord is some sort of a ‘quid pro quo’ for the Makabayan bloc.

More or less, these are the forces against the VP’s request for confidential funds; responsible for the impeachment rumors against Sara; supporting the International Criminal Court investigation that might include Inday and threatening to revoke the franchise of the Sonshine Media Network International, a known media platform of the Dutertes and their supporters.

I believe the country is close to winning the war against communist terrorism across the archipelago. With the deaths of Joma Sison and the Tiamzon couple, I think the terrorist group has become a headless organization. The government should not give the CPP-NPA any opportunity to regroup and strengthen their numbers. I appeal to PBBM to consider VP Sara’s opinions.

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